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A harrier is any of the several species of diurnal hawks forming the Circinae sub-family of the Accipitridae family of birds of prey. Harriers characteristically hunt by flying low over open ground, feeding on small mammals, reptiles, or birds. The young of the species are sometimes referred to as ring-tail harriers.
Most harriers are placed in the genus Circus, the scientific name arising from the circling movements female and male make when courting. Two other harriers are in the genus Polyboroides, the harrier-hawks, which are allopatric (geographically separated) and restricted to the Afrotropic ecozone. The remaining single species forms the monotypic genus Geranospiza.
Ring-tail is an informal term used by birders for the juveniles and females of several harrier species when seen in the field and not identifiable to an exact species. Ring-tail harriers include the juveniles and females of Montagu's harrier (Circus pygargus); northern or hen harrier (Circus cyaneus); and pallid harrier (Circus macrourus).
- Genus Circus
- Montagu's harrier, Circus pygargus
- Hen harrier, Circus cyaneus
- Western marsh harrier, Circus aeruginosus
- Eastern marsh harrier, Circus spilonotus
- Papuan harrier, Circus spilothorax (formerly in C.spilonotus)
- African marsh harrier, Circus ranivorus
- Swamp harrier, Circus approximans
- Malagasy harrier, Circus macrosceles (formerly in C. maillardi)
- Réunion harrier, Circus maillardi
- Long-winged harrier, Circus buffoni
- Spotted harrier, Circus assimilis
- Black harrier, Circus maurus
- Cinereous harrier, Circus cinereus
- Pallid harrier, Circus macrourus
- Pied harrier, Circus melanoleucos
- Eyles' harrier, Circus eylesi (prehistoric)
- Wood harrier, Circus dossenus (prehistoric)
- Genus Polyboroides
- Genus Geranospiza
- Crane hawk, Geranospiza caerulescens
- Ferguson-Lees, Christie, Franklin, Mead, and Burton. Raptors of the World. London: Christopher Helm, 1999. ISBN 0-7136-8026-1.
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