The Spotted Harrier is a medium-sized, slender bird of prey having an owl-like facial ruff that creates the appearance of a short, broad head, and long bare yellow legs. The upperparts are blue-grey with dark barring, and the wingtips are black. The face, innerwing patch, and underparts are chestnut. The long tail is boldly banded, with a wedge-shaped tip. Juveniles are mottled and streaked ginger and brown, with prominent ginger shoulders, fawn rump and banded tail.
The Spotted Harrier occurs throughout the Australian mainland, except in densly forested or wooded habitats of the coast, escarpment and ranges, and rarely in Tasmania. Individuals disperse widely in NSW and comprise a single population.
Habitat and ecology
- Occurs in grassy open woodland including Acacia and mallee remnants, inland riparian woodland, grassland and shrub steppe. It is found most commonly in native grassland, but also occurs in agricultural land, foraging over open habitats including edges of inland wetlands.
- Builds a stick nest in a tree and lays eggs in spring (or sometimes autumn), with young remaining in the nest for several months.
- Preys on terrestrial mammals (eg bandicoots, bettongs, and rodents), birds and reptile, occasionally insects and rarely carrion.