Differences Between Northern Harrier & Red-Tailed Hawk

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northern harrier vs red tailed hawk

Hawks are one of the most diverse groups of birds in North America. There are dozens of species of hawk, each with its own unique set of characteristics. In this northern harrier vs red tailed hawk article, we’ll be comparing two of the most common hawks in North America: the northern harrier and the red-tailed hawk. We’ll be looking at their physical features, their behaviors, and their habitats. By the end, you should have a better understanding of the differences between these two amazing birds!

Physical Features

One of the easiest ways to tell a northern harrier apart from a red-tailed hawk is by their physical features. Northern harriers are smaller than red-tailed hawks, with a wingspan that averages between 36 and 42 inches. They also have a distinctive white rump, which is absent in red-tailed hawks. Finally, northern harriers typically have yellow eyes, while red-tailed hawks have brown eyes.

Behaviors

There are also some behavioral differences between these two types of hawks. Northern harriers are more likely to hunt in open fields, using their keen sense of hearing to locate prey. Red-tailed hawks, on the other hand, tend to hunt from a perch, using their excellent vision to spot prey from a distance.

Habitats

These behavioral differences can be partially explained by the different habitats these two types of hawks prefer. Northern harriers are more common in open areas like marshes and grasslands, while red-tailed hawks are more likely to be found in forests and woodlands. This difference in habitat preference can also be observed in the nesting habits of these two types of hawks. Northern harriers will often build their nests on the ground, while red-tailed hawks will build theirs in trees.

Food Preferences

Another difference between these two types of hawks is their food preferences. Northern harriers primarily eat small mammals like mice and voles, while red-tailed hawks will also eat reptiles, birds, and large insects. This difference in diet can be explained by the different hunting strategies of these two types of hawks. Because they hunt by listening for prey, northern harriers are more likely to eat creatures that make noise when they move (like small mammals). Red-tailed hawks, on the other hand, can see their prey from a distance, so they’re not as reliant on sound to locate food.

Hunting Strategies

Finally, let’s take a look at the hunting strategies of these two types of hawks. As we mentioned before, northern harriers will often hunt by listening for their prey. They’ll fly low to the ground, using their sense of hearing to locate small mammals hiding in the grass. Red-tailed hawks, on the other hand, will typically hunt from a perch. They’ll sit and wait for their prey to come into view, and then they’ll swoop down and capture it with their powerful talons.

Conclusion

As you can see, there are many differences between northern harriers and red-tailed hawks! These two types of hawks vary in size, behavior, and habitat preference. So next time you’re out birdwatching, see if you can spot the differences for yourself! If you have any questions, then feel free to contact us!

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