Migratory Birds of the Great Lakes University of Wisconsin Sea Grant Institute
 about habitat birds + science 20 birds
aerialist raptors
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Northern Harrier — Description

While hunting, the long-winged, slim-bodied Northern Harrier flies low over fields, meadows and marshes, dipping and tilting, brushing the tops of long grasses or cattails, relying on sudden surprise attacks to capture its prey. In addition to its excellent vision, the Harrier also benefits from an owl-like, parabolic facial disc that collects noises and allows the bird to hunt by sound as well.

In the spectacular courtship flight of the Northern Harrier, the male climbs vertically in and then stalls, diving toward the ground, where at the last moment he adjusts course and soars skyward again in dizzying U-shaped loops and barrel rolls. This behavior has been called “sky dancing,” and also may occasionally be seen during migration.