The Hen Harrier (Circus cyaneus) is a bird of prey of the harrier (bird) family. It breeds throughout the northern parts of the Northern hemisphere in Canada and the northernmost USA, and northern Eurasia. In North America it is known as the Northern Harrier or Marsh Hawk.
This medium-sized raptor breeds on moorland, bogs and heathland. In winter it is a bird of open country.
This is a typical harrier, with long wings held in a shallow V in its low flight. It also resembles other harriers in having distinct male and female plumages.
The male is grey above and white below, with black wingtips. The female is brown above with white upper tail coverts, hence females and the similar juveniles are often called “ringtails”. Her underparts are buff streaked with brown.
Hen harriers hunt small mammals and birds, surprising them as they drift low over fields and moors.
The nest of this species is on the ground. Four to six whitish eggs are laid.
This conspicuous raptor attracts much illegal persecution from gamekeepers on hunting estates.