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Birds of Illinois

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Illinois Outdoors

Photos by Chris Young

Northern harrier hawk

Scientific Name: Circus cyaneus
Present in Illinois: Late February to early April.
Illinois Status: Common migrant, uncommon winter and rare summer resident. Illinois Outdoors
Illinois Range: Mostly northern and central.
Illinois Habitat: Frequents grassy areas and fallow fields, but not where extensive plowing or row crops occur. Also seen over open wetlands, marshy meadows and any places where where meadow mice are plentiful.
Winter Range: As far south as middle America, northern Columbia and Venezuela. Wintering harriers most numerous in southern part of the state.
Length: 17-21 inches, with 41-50 inch wingspan
Weight: 0.8-1.1 pounds
Description: Possesses a long tail with white rump patch in all plumages. Adult males pale grayish, females brownish with streaks below, and immature birds brown with rusty underparts.
Song: Female food call piercing, descending scream; mostly quiet outside breeding season; distress call high-pitched “kek” uttered in rapid succession.
Nest: On ground, making a rim of twigs and lining nest with grasses.
Eggs: 2-5 white
Broods per year: One
Illinois Outdoors
Food: Variety of mammals, birds, amphibians, reptiles and some insects. Main diet mice and passerine birds.
Habits: Ordinarily do not fly in groups when migrating. Instead, one or two will wheel and glide past a given point, sometime high other times very low with its wings in a strong dihedral.
Notable: Considered an endangered species in Illinois because of their low population, which likely is result of destruction of marsh and prairie habitats. In various European cultures, harriers have been considered omens of good luck, specifically for marriage and financial affairs. Formerly known as the marsh hawk.
SOURCE-The Birds of Illinois by H. David Bohlen, Snake River Birds of Prey National Conservation Area Website (http://www.birdsofprey.blm.gove)

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