Hen Harrier

The Hen Harrier (Circus cyaneus) is a bird of prey of the harrier family found throughout the northern parts of the Northern hemisphere in Canada and the northernmost USA, and northern Eurasia. In North America it is known as the Northern Harrier or Marsh Hawk.

With the exception of those that live in mildest regions such as France and Great Britain, this species migrates to more southerly areas in winter. Hen Harriers will roost in colonies during the winter, often with Merlins.

This medium-sized raptor breeds on moorland, bogs and farmland (in Europe). During winter it prefers open country.

This typical harrier has long wings which it holds in a shallow V during its low flight. It also resembles other harriers in males and females are distinctly different in plumage; the male is grey above and white below, with black wingtips and the female is brown above with white upper tail coverts. Females and the juveniles are often called “ringtails”. Her underparts are buff streaked with brown.

Hen harriers prey on small mammals and birds, surprising them as they drift low over fields and moors.

The nest of this species is on the ground where 4-6 whitish eggs are laid.

This striking raptor attracts intense illegal persecution from gamekeepers on hunting estates, particularly those managed for Red Grouse shooting.