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Hen Harrier

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Is the Hen Harrier right for you?

Species group:

Other common names:

Scientific name: Circus cyaneus

The basics:
The Hen Harrier tends to be one of the most visible and easily recognizable diurnal birds of prey in Eurasian wetlands, thanks to its characteristic style of flying long and low over marshes, seeming to tilt this way and that as it glides. As its owl-like facial disc and "listening" movement suggests, these birds hunt for rodents by sound as well as by sight.

The Hen Harrier is rare in falconry and is best recommended to the advanced expert with the right permits and experience to manage these interesting raptors. Males are thought to be more likely to hunt birds, while the larger females prefer rodents.

In 2014, the Northern Harrier was split into two species. The North American species is now called C. hudsonius. However, be cautious when looking at photos and data from before the split. A lot of older information labeled C. cyaneus will actually pertain to the North American species. Always check the range.

Appearance:
A long-legged, long-tailed, mid-sized bird of prey with a noticeable facial disc. There's also an eye-catching white patch on the rump of all plumages and all ages. Females/juveniles tend to be brownish, while adult males are gray, making adults easy to sex even at a distance. Adult male Northern Harriers have less extensive black on their primaries compared to Hen Harriers. Like many other raptors, the females tend to be larger and heavier.

Weight:
Female: 483 grams (17 oz.)
Male: 367 grams (13 oz.)

Average size:
48 centimeters (19 in.)

Lifespan:
15 years

Behavior / temperament:
The Hen Harrier tends to fly low, listening as well as looking for prey. Some grouse hunters have been accused of persecuting this species as a potential competitor for their game. However, conservationists believe they take smaller prey like voles and pipits, a small grassland bird.

It's possible that a falconry bird being flown in the United Kingdom would face the same risk from angry groundskeepers as the wild birds do.

Housing:
In addition to needing a secure flight safe from thieves and larger birds of prey, the Hen Harrier will greatly appreciate a shallow bath.

Diet:
The Hen Harrier is a carnivore that needs to consume some whole prey in order to allow its digestive system to work properly. In the wild, this predator consumes a varied diet of both birds and mammals, and you should duplicate a varied diet in captivity, providing small rodents, day old chicks, and more. They should also be provided with water.

Written by Elaine Radford

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