Hen Harrier

Scientific name: Circus cyaneus

Did you know: The Hen Harrier, a master of the air, can perform a remarkable mid-air ‘throw and catch’ feeding display, where the male passes food to the female while both are in flight!

What Do Hen Harriers Look Like? (how to identify them)

Hen Harriers are distinguished raptors, known for their agility in flight. The males are recognised by their pale grey plumage and the females and juveniles, referred to as ‘ringtails’, exhibit brown feathers with a striking white rump and banded tail.

Differences Between Male And Female Hen Harriers

Male Hen Harriers boast a ghostly grey hue with black wingtips, while females and young birds are predominantly brown with white rumps and distinctively striped tails.

What Do Hen Harriers Eat?

These birds of prey mainly feed on small birds and mammals, including Meadow Pipits and voles, which they skillfully hunt while gliding low over landscapes.

Where Do Hen Harriers Live? (inc. migration info)

Hen Harriers breed in upland areas, thriving in moorland, bogs, and coastal prairies. While some populations migrate to southern Europe and Asia during winter, many remain in milder regions like France and Great Britain year-round.

Bird Calls & Songs (the unique voices of Hen Harriers)

The calls of the Hen Harrier are distinctive – the male emits a “chek-chek-chek” sound, and the female, a whistled “piih-eh”. Their vocalisations are particularly noticeable during their dramatic aerial displays.

Fun Hen Harrier Facts (kid friendly)

  • Hen Harriers can glide effortlessly with their wings forming a shallow ‘V’.
  • Males sometimes have multiple mates, especially noted in the Orkney population.
  • They are the most persecuted bird of prey in the UK.
  • Hen Harriers have a wingspan of up to 120cm.
  • They build their nests on the ground among heather.
  • In winter, they often roost communally in coastal marshes.
  • These birds are skilled hunters, catching prey mid-flight.
  • Hen Harriers are known for their impressive aerial food pass.
  • They were once called “the blue hawk” by naturalist George Edwards.
  • Hen Harriers have a unique ability to hunt by sound as well as sight.

Hen Harrier Images

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Male
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Female
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Hatchling
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Nestling
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Chick
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Fledgling
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Juvenile

Facts About The Hen Harrier

Diet: Mainly small birds and mammals.
Bird Family: Kites, hawks and eagles
Length: 44-52cm
Wingspan: 100-120cm
Weight: 300-400g (male) 400-600g (female)
Scientific Name: Circus cyaneus

The Hen Harrier Can Be Seen In The UK During The Following Months

  • January
  • February
  • March
  • April
  • May
  • June
  • July
  • August
  • September
  • October
  • November
  • December