Common Name

Scientific Name

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Photo by Jim Parrish
Photo Copyright Jim Parrish

The northern harrier, Circus cyaneus, is a raptor that occurs in both the New World and the Old World. North American populations breed throughout much of Alaska, Canada, and the United States, as well as in parts of Mexico. They winter in areas from southern Canada to northern South America. The northern harrier is a year-round resident of Utah, where it can be found in open habitats such as marshes, fields, and grasslands. Individuals may congregate into roosting colonies during the winter in areas where food is abundant.

Nests are commonly built on the ground, often within thick vegetation. A single clutch of four to six eggs is laid and then incubated by the female alone for about one month. The male brings food to nest during the nesting period. The young become independent from their parents at about two months of age.

The northern harrier is active primarily during the day. Major prey items include small mammals and small birds, although invertebrates and other small vertebrates are also consumed.


  • Biotics Database. 2005. Utah Division of Wildlife Resources, NatureServe, and the network of Natural Heritage Programs and Conservation Data Centers.

  • Peterson, R. T., and V. M. Peterson. 1990. A field guide to western birds, 3rd ed. Houghton Mifflin, Boston. 432 pp.