The Spotted Harrier (Circus assimilis) can be found throughout mainland Australia, but it is the semi-arid and arid regions of Australia where they are most often sighted. This raptor is part of the family Accipitridae, order Accipitriformes, that encompasses many diurnal (daytime) birds of prey, including eagles and hawks.
They are often seen soaring, quartering (a hunting technique where a bird flies slowly just above the ground or water in open habitats) over undulating to flattish landscape in search of food. This slow, systematic quartering technique of an area is then followed by a swift dive to the ground to either catch the prey or to flush it out, followed by a short chase before capture.
They are known to prey on small terrestrial birds such as larks, pipits and quails; mammals such as rabbits, bandicoots and mice; reptiles and large insects. They have also been seen feeding on carrion.
The males and females are alike in appearance, with the female about 40% larger than the male by weight. A long legged raptor with a large, slim-body, the Spotted Harrier has a chestnut rufous underpart with white spots. The adult bird back and wing feathers are grey, with black areas near the ends, with light grey edges. The tail feathers have thick bands of black on both the top and on the underside. The cere, iris, legs and feet are pale yellow. Immature birds are streaked below.
Allied Harrier, Jardine’s Harrier, Spotted Swamp-hawk.
- Scientific classification
- Kingdom: Animalia
- Phylum: Chordata
- Class: Aves
- Order: Accipitriformes
- Family: Accipitridae
- Genus: Circus
- Species: C. assimilis
- Binomial name: Circus assimilis