Spotted Harrier

Did you know?

Spotted Harriers often build their nest on top of a patch of mistletoe, hidden by foliage. The chosen tree is usually in a patch of other trees or shrubs, rather than in an isolated tree.

Calls
Usually silent, but when breeding may give piercing squeaks and rapid chatter.
Facts and Figures
Research Species: 
No
Minimum Size: 
50cm
Maximum Size: 
62cm
Average size: 
60cm
Average weight: 
610g
Breeding season: 
July to October
Clutch Size: 
Three to four.
Incubation: 
33 days
Nestling Period: 
40 days
Conservation Status
Federal: 
NSW: 
NT: 
QLD: 
SA: 
TAS: 
VIC: 
WA: 
Basic Information
Scientific Name: 
Atlas Number: 
218
What does it look like?
Description: 

The Spotted Harrier is a large, slim-bodied raptor (bird of prey) with a striking white-spotted chestnut breast and mainly blue-grey upper parts. It has an owl-like chestnut coloured facial disc with a narrow light grey ruff around it and yellow eyes. It has long slender yellow legs and a long tail, with a wedge-shaped tip. Its long, broad wings have dark, well rounded, 'fingered' tips. The female Spotted Harrier is larger than the male. The Spotted Harrier glides slowly, with up-swept wings. It is also called the Allied or Jardine's Harrier or the Spotted Swamp-hawk.

Similar species: 

The similar Swamp HarrierC. approximans, has striped rather than dark wing tips and a more finely barred tail. The Swamp Harrier's white rump is also distinctive.

Where does it live?
Distribution: 

The Spotted Harrier is found in mainland Australia and Indonesia. It is widespread but sparsely distributed.

Habitat: 

The Spotted Harrier is found in open wooded country in tropical and temperate Australia, particularly in arid and semi-arid areas.

Seasonal movements: 

The Spotted Harrier is partly nomadic, in response to local conditions.

What does it do?
Feeding: 

The Spotted Harrier hunts by day, quartering (systematically searching) low over the ground, gliding with up-swept wings. Its favourite prey are ground birds such as quail and pipits and it will also take mice, rats, rabbits and lizards. It rarely eats carrion.

Breeding: 

The nest is built in trees in open or remnant woodland and is a large flimsy platform of twigs and sticks, lined with green leaves. The female Spotted Harrier incubates the eggs, broods and guards the young. The male hunts and brings food to the female.

Living with us

Spotted Harriers are secure in Australia, though generally uncommon. They often nest near ripening crops, where food is plentiful.

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