Swamp Harrier

Quick Facts

Length: 55 cm
Height: -
Weight: 740 grams
Colour: -
Habitat: Wetlands and open country
Food: Large insects, frogs, eggs, birds, reptiles, small mammals
Predators: -
Status: Secure

The Swamp Harrier is a large slim-bodied bird of prey (raptor), with long slender legs and a long tail that is rounded at the tip. It is mainly dark brown above and a prominent white rump. It has an owl-like face mask. The wings are long and broad, with 5 'fingers' on the wing tips in flight. Females are larger with rufous underparts, while the smaller male is lighter underneath. The legs and eyes are yellow. This species has a slow sailing flight on up-swept wings, flying low over water and reedy swamps. It is also known as the Marsh Harrier.

The Swamp Harrier is widespread in Australasia and the South Pacific.

The Swamp Harrier is found in terrestrial wetlands and open country of tropical and temperate Australia. It is mainly seen in fresh or salt wetlands, often in deep swamps with emergent reeds and over open water.

Many of the Swamp Harriers in Australia move north in late summer and autumn and a few birds over-winter in Tasmania.They may migrate in groups and often roost in groups on the ground. These harriers may also disperse inland after heavy rain.

Swamp Harriers hunt for birds and eggs, large insects, frogs, reptiles and small mammals up to the size of hares or rabbits. When hunting they 'quarter', which means that they systematically search for prey by gliding low to the ground or water, then drop down on to their quarry.

The nest of the Swamp Harrier is made of straw and grasses, hidden above the water in dense reeds in a swamp or in crops or long grasses near water. They usually nest in single pairs. The female incubates and broods the young, while the male hunts for food. He transfers the food to the female in the air, before she feeds it to the young.

Swamp Harriers are easily disturbed at the nest and will abandon their eggs and downy young if approached by people.

Author: Rosalyn Plunkett
Last Updated: Sunday 14th July, 2013
BirdLife Australia - www.birdlife.org.au


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