Why this oddball hawk stands apart from the rest

December 15, 2014, 4:16 p.m.

The northern harrier is a hawk found throughout the northern hemisphere yet it is anything but common. This species has an owl-like face, in that it is more disc-shaped than other hawks. The shape helps it to have better hearing, which it relies upon much more heavily to hunt than other species. Instead of wheeling high above the ground and using a keen sense of sight to zero in on prey, it glides low over the ground, coursing back and forth and listening for its favorite foods of mice, voles, rats, shrews, and small birds.

Because of their choice in prey, they stand out to farmers as well, who often refer to them as "good hawks." Unlike many hawk species who will go after poultry and so are hated by farmers, harriers mainly focus on the rodents and mice that eat eggs and crops that are a farmers' livelihood, which makes them welcome visitors.

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