Fun Spotted Harrier Facts For Kids

Anusuya Mukherjee
Oct 20, 2022 By Anusuya Mukherjee
Originally Published on Sep 02, 2021
Edited by Jacob Fitzbright
Spotted Harrier Fact File

The spotted harrier (Circus assimilis) is a species of bird, which is also known as the smoke hawk and the swamp harrier hawk. It belongs to the family Accipitridae and the order Accipitriformes.

Their distribution can be seen across Australia and Indonesia and most of the population has been recorded in Timor Leste as well. The spotted harrier somewhat looks to have an owl-like facial ruff, they look small but have a broad head and eyes that are yellow in color with yellow legs, dark brown underwings, and a long tail.

They are medium-sized, long-legged raptors, with long and narrow wings.

They build their nest on tall trees. These birds are generally non-migratory, but during the non-breeding season, they are migratory.

The conservation status of these birds is of Least Concern and they have a geographic distribution range of 7,722 sq. m (20,000 sq. km).

They lay around two to four eggs per season. These birds are highly carnivorous in nature and feed mainly on insects, rodents, reptiles, and other small or dead animals. They are also physically similar to swamp harriers.

For more relatable content, check out these pygmy fruit bat facts and princess parrot facts for kids.

Spotted Harrier Interesting Facts

What type of animal is a spotted harrier?

The spotted harrier (Circus assimilis) is a type of bird. It is a bird of prey mainly residing in Australia that feeds on ground birds, lizards and rats.

What class of animal does a spotted harrier belong to?

The spotted harrier (Circus assimilis) belongs to Aves class of animal, from the order Accipitriformes. They are blue-gray birds of prey.

How many spotted harriers are there in the world?

The exact number of spotted harriers present across the world is unknown. But, according to Birdlife International, the distribution of this bird of prey can be observed in a large area and is of Least Concern, which means their population is stable. Therefore, this species is not under the protection of Wildlife Reserves.

Where does a spotted harrier live?

Spotted harriers are found in Australia and Indonesia and most of this bird's population resides in Timor Leste. Their geographic range of habitat is distributed across 7,722 sq. m (20,000 sq. km). They are rarely or not found in dense forest and woodland habitat escarpments, and in Tasmania.

What is a spotted harrier's habitat?

The spotted harrier lives among grassy open woodlands, Acacia and mallee remnants, inland riparian woodlands, grasslands and shrub-steppe, agricultural lands, and wetlands. The spotted harrier builds its nest in a tree, where they stay and also lay its eggs.

Then when the little ones are born they are left in the nest for few months. Sometimes heavy nests are placed on the ground rather than on trees by the harriers.

Who do spotted harriers live with?

Spotted harriers are raptors who mostly lead a solitary life, except during the breeding season, when they stay in pairs. As wild birds, sometimes, they can be aggressive towards each other.

How long does a spotted harrier live?

This bird species can live for almost 10 years.

How do they reproduce?

These birds of prey are solitary breeders. Courtship displays generally begin from June and continue to October. During courtship displays, both sexes perform rocking dives, and they swoop back up in a U-shaped loop, and a high-pitched call of 'kee-o kee-o' is made by both.

Harriers then prepare and build a nest on low bushes of trees or on the ground. Then they lay the eggs in these nests and the young ones remain in the nest for few months.

Females lay an average of two to four eggs per season, between October to December. The incubation period lasts for about 33 days. Spotted harriers live in Australia and Indonesia and have breeding habitats also in the same habitats.

What is their conservation status?

The conservation status of the spotted harrier is of Least Concern, as they have a stable population. They are raptors and even prey on large animals and others like snakes, lizards, rabbits, and so on.

Spotted Harrier Fun Facts

What do spotted harriers look like?

A northern harrier soars above.

The spotted harrier is fairly colorful and has sharp features like they have an owl-like structure and ruff which make the bird looks like an owl because of its long yellow legs, blue and gray upperparts, with dark barring, and the tip of their wings is black. Their face, inner wing patch, and underparts have white spots, like chestnuts.

They have prominent ginger (brown) shoulders, fawn rump, gray upper parts, and banded tails.

Juveniles have some different color patterns and are pale buff in color and they have brown streaks all along their chest and stomach.

When they become older they inhibit adult coloring and the white spots turn into striking white underparts and the upperparts look the same. Spotted harrier juveniles also have broad heads and long yellow legs with a fawn rump and tail.

They have narrow wings and when these juveniles are young they remain in the nest for a couple of months. They are similar in appearance to swamp harriers.

However, they can be distinguished with the fact that swamp harriers have more dark coloration of gray and brown while spotted harriers have a light coloration of gray.

How cute are they?

The spotted harrier is amusing in appearance, but those in the wild can be quite dangerous to approach as they are carnivores and aggressive in nature. They are not typically cute, but they are certainly beautiful.

How do they communicate?

These birds often make food calls, distress calls and most of the time make loud sounds when around their nest. A loud 'kik-kek' sound can be heard from them while breeding.

How big is a spotted harrier?

The spotted harrier has a body length of between 19.7-24 in (50-61 cm), which is 20 times bigger than a fox kestrel.

How fast can a spotted harrier fly?

The accurate flight speed of spotted harriers is unknown but by their wing size, it can be estimated that they fly at a moderate speed.

How much does a spotted harrier weigh?

The spotted harrier male weighs around 14.4-19 oz (407-537 g), while females weigh between 18.7-26.3 oz (530-745 g). Females are heavier and bigger than males.

What are the male and female names of the species?

No separate names have been used to describe the male and female of this bird.

What would you call a baby spotted harrier?

Spotted harrier babies are called chicks.

What do they eat?

These birds are largely carnivorous in nature and feed mostly on terrestrial animals like bandicoots, rodents, reptiles, and sometimes on other large ground birds. They were heavily dependent on rabbits for food but with the commencement of rabbit caliciviral disease, the hunt for rabbits by harriers lessened in some regions.

They search for their prey on the ground while soaring high with its wings. The terrestrial ground birds are going extinct, as they prefer living on the ground and at times it happens that these harriers feed on them.

Are they dangerous?

They are large birds of prey and feeds on various animals, it is unknown whether they are dangerous to humans or not. But from their personality, it clearly shows that they are a big threat to terrestrial animals.

Would they make a good pet?

Spotted harriers are large predators and are not friendly with the home environment so it is not safe to keep them as pets as they may use defensive methods to release themselves. Also they can make use of their large wings to harm somebody.

Did you know...

The spotted harrier often makes its way to India when it wants to migrate.

Do spotted harriers migrate?

In total, there are around 16 species of harriers and, out of these, six species migrate to India every year during winter. Otherwise, they do not migrate.

Is the spotted harrier endemic?

Yes, spotted harriers are endemic to Australia and Indonesia and most of these bird's population is also found in Timor-Leste.

Here at Kidadl, we have carefully created lots of interesting family-friendly animal facts for everyone to discover! Learn more about some other birds from our collared forest falcon fun facts and forest owlet surprising facts pages.

You can even occupy yourself at home by coloring in one of our free printable spotted harrier coloring pages.

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Written by Anusuya Mukherjee

Bachelor of Arts and Law specializing in Political Science and Intellectual Property Rights

Anusuya Mukherjee picture

Anusuya MukherjeeBachelor of Arts and Law specializing in Political Science and Intellectual Property Rights

With a wealth of international experience spanning Europe, Africa, North America, and the Middle East, Anusuya brings a unique perspective to her work as a Content Assistant and Content Updating Coordinator. She holds a law degree from India and has practiced law in India and Kuwait. Anusuya is a fan of rap music and enjoys a good cup of coffee in her free time. Currently, she is working on her novel, "Mr. Ivory Merchant".

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