Harrier (bird)

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Montagu's harrier
Scientific classification
Kingdom: Animalia
Phylum: Chordata
Class: Aves
Order: Accipitriformes
Family: Accipitridae
Subfamily: Circinae


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.


Northern harrier (Circus cyaneus), 1st year juvenile

Most harriers are placed in the genus Circus, derived from the Ancient Greek kirkos, referring to a bird of prey named for its circling flight (kirkos, "circle"), probably the hen harrier.[1]

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).


BirdLife International recognises an additional species the northern harrier (Circus hudsonius) normally considered a subspecies of the hen harrier[2]


  1. ^ Jobling, James A. (2010). The Helm Dictionary of Scientific Bird Names. London: Christopher Helm. p. 109. ISBN 978-1-4081-2501-4. 
  2. ^ "Northern Harrier (Circus hudsonius) - BirdLife species factsheet". 

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