Aust birds    Bird names   News   1-26    Habitats    Key plants    Glossary    Plumage    Nests    Tips    Thumbnails    Gen. info    Sponsors    Photos for sale   
NON-PASSERINES     1    2    3    4    5    6    7    8    9    10     11     12     13     14 15     16     17     18     19     20     21     22     23     24     25     26     PASSERINES
Common names sorted alphabetically: A   B   C   D   E   F   G   H   I   J   K   L   M   N   O   P   Q   R   S   T   W   Y  

6

Spotted Harrier

(Circus assimilis)
Alternate name(s): "Jardine's Harrier", "Allied Harrier"; misnomers: "Spotted Swamp-hawk", "Smoke Hawk"
Size: 50-60 cm; wing span 1.2-1.45 m
Weight: 410-540 g (male), 530-745 g (female)

Similar species

Description     Classification     Distribution     Sightings     Photos     Breeding     Nest     Eggs     Behaviour     Food     Call/s

Physical description

Click here for a physical description

Taxonomy, classification

See Spotted Harrier at Wikipedia .

Range, habitat, finding this species

Click here for information on habitat and range

Sightings

Click here for sighting information

Photos

Not the photos you want? Or are you after even better quality? Have a look here .

ADULT

Near-dorsal view of a Spotted Harrier; when hunting in dry grass, they can be very difficult to spot
[Near Burren Junction, NSW, June 2012]

Frontal view of a Spotted Harrier in flight (photo courtesy of F. Japp)
[Koorlong State Forest, near Meridian Road, VIC, September 2014]

Frontal view of two adult Spotted Harriers in flight
[Near Warren, NSW, April 2017]

Lateral view of a Spotted Harrier in flight, showing clearly the spots giving the species its name (photo courtesy of R. Druce)
[Near Narrabri, NSW, June 2012]

Clear view of a Spotted Harrier's upperwings in flight (photo courtesy of R. Druce)
[Near Narrabri, NSW, June 2012]

Adult Spotted Harrier hunting along the edges of a wheat field while it is being harvested
[Near Bellata, NSW, November 2015]

Dorsal view of a Spotted Harrier in flight
[Eulah Creek, NSW, January 2013]

IMMATURE/JUVENILE

Lateral view of an immature (second-year) Spotted Harrier hunting from a fence
[Near Burren Junction, NSW, June 2012]

Lateral view of a Spotted Harrier, now with its head turned; note the owl-like appearance of the head
[Near Burren Junction, NSW, June 2012]

Lateral view of a second-year Spotted Harrier hunting from a fence
[Leard State Forest, near Maules Creek, NSW, October 2012]

Near-lateral view of a second-year Spotted Harrier in flight
[Eulah Creek, NSW, January 2013]

Lateral view of an juvenile (first-year) Spotted Harrier
[Eulah Creek, NSW, November 2007]

The same Spotted Harrier as above, now with its head partly turned
[Eulah Creek, NSW, November 2007]

Spotted Harrier with its head now completely turned towards the observer; note the similarity with an owl's "face", an adaption to optimize forward localisation of sound made by prey
[Eulah Creek, NSW, November 2007]

The same Spotted Harrier as above, now before a little skinny-dip in our ornamental pond...
[Eulah Creek, NSW, November 2007]

Spotted Harrier after the bath, shaking off water
[Eulah Creek, NSW, November 2007]

Breeding information

Breeding season: Sep - Dec Eggs: 2 - 4 Incubation period: ca. 33 days Fledging age: ca. 42(?) days

Nest

"bungobittah", "malunna" = nest [Aboriginal]

Type: Basket Material: Sticks, green leaves Height above ground: 5 - 20(?) m

Unusually for a raptor, Spotted Harriers do not nest in a major fork of a tall tree, but often in the outer canopy.

Near-fledging age Spotted Harrier chick in its nest (photo courtesy of D. Johnston)
[Coonamble/Baradine area, NSW, October 1980]

Eggs

"boyanga", "booyanga", "derinya", "dirandil", "koomura", "ngampu", "nooluk", "pateena" = Egg; "dirundirri" = eggs [Aboriginal]; "gawu" = eggs [gamilaraay]

Size: 50 x 40 mm Colour: White, sometimes pale-blue Shape: Ellipsoidal

Spotted Harrier nest with 2 eggs inside (photo courtesy of D. Johnston)
[Coonamble/Baradine area, NSW, October 1980]

Behaviour

Additional information

There is a separate page on the peculiar flight and hunting technique of Spotted Harriers.

The immature bird shown above was not afraid to let a human approach to a minimum distance of about 12 metres, before slowly gliding away. Also its hunting skills were not yet up to par, with regular unsuccessful meandering walks through high grass.

Spotted Harrier hunting in its typical way, low above grassland, which in this case is a paddock
[Eulah Creek, NSW, September 2012]

Most of the time Spotted Harriers can be observed flying low above the ground in search for prey ("harrying"), but sometimes they also fly higher, circling in updrafts like other raptors.

Spotted Harrier getting in the way of a Nankeen Kestrel
[Eulah Creek, NSW, July 2013]

Behaviour

Social behaviour: Territorial Mobility: Dispersive/vagrant Elementary unit: Solitary

Spotted Harrier hunting above wheat stubble
[Near Bellata, NSW, November 2013]

Food, Diet

Adults: Ground birds, rodents, lizards Dependents: As adults Water intake: None

All raptors are carnivores. Spotted Harriers prey on small animals, such as reptiles, small mammals and ground birds.

During the first few weeks, raptors feed their chicks with pieces of meat. Later on in their development, the chicks learn to tear apart their parents' prey.

Dorsal view of a Spotted Harrier taking off with its kill, a Brown Quail
[Near Burren Junction, NSW, June 2012]

These pages are largely based on our own observations and those of our contributors. The structure of these bird pages is explained HERE. For more salient facts on any bird species please refer to a field guide.

Would you like to contribute photos or sound recordings to this site?
If interested, please CLICK HERE. Credits to contributors are given HERE.