Spotted Harrier, Circus assimilis Click to enlarge image
Spotted Harrier, Circus assimilis. Image: Sandy Horne
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Fast Facts

  • IUCN Conservation Status
  • Classification
  • Size Range
    50-62cm in length
  • Habitats
    grassland, open woodland


The Spotted Harrier is a medium-sized Australasian bird of prey.

What do Spotted Harriers look like?


The Spotted Harrier is a slim bodied raptor with an owl-like facial disc, and long tail. It has a chestnut face, chest and belly, with white spots on the chest and belly. The wings, back and tail are slate grey, with white spotting on the wings and bold black bars on the tail. The iris (eyes) are yellow to orange-yellow and the legs and feet are yellow. Juvenile birds have dark brown eyes and are more dark brown above, and have buff coloured underparts.

Spotted Harrier, Circus assimilis
Spotted Harrier, Circus assimilis. Image: rivendel
CC BY-NC 4.0 (

Where do Spotted Harriers live?


The species can be found mostly in open woodlands, dry woodlands and grasslands.


Australia (vagrant to Tasmania); Sulawesi and Lesser Sunda Islands.

What do Spotted Harriers eat and how do they mate?

Feeding and diet

The Spotted Harrier hunts by slow quartering, gliding, and buoyant flight; it catches prey by diving directly onto prey. It mainly feeds on ground birds such as songlarks, quail, button-quail, and pipits; it also includes small mammals such as mice and rats.

Breeding behaviours

Spotted Harriers build their nests using thistle stems and dry twigs, that are formed into a shallow platform. The nest is lined with eucalypt leaves. The female does most of the nest building. The nest is constructed on a horizontal branch in the outer foliage of a tree.

Breeding season: August to December

Clutch size: Up to four eggs can be laid, usually clutch of three eggs.

Incubation: 32-34 days.

Spotted Harrier, Circus assimilis
Spotted Harrier, Circus assimilis. Image: donnamareetomkinson
CC BY-NC 4.0 (

How do Spotted Harriers communicate?


The species is generally silent, and is most vocal during the breeding season. It makes a sharp ‘ki-ki-ki-ki’ call when a mate is delivering food or when defending its territory.


  • Beruldsen, G. & Chapman, G. (2003). Australian birds, their nests and eggs. Queensland: G. Beruldsen.
  • Debus, S.J.J.S. (2012). Birds of Prey of Australia: A Field Guide. Second Edition. Collingwood, VIC: CSIRO Publishing.
  • Fraser, I., & Gray, J. & CSIRO. (2013). Australian bird names : a complete guide. Collingwood, VIC: CSIRO Publishing.
  • Marchant, S., and Higgins, P.J. (Eds) (1993). Handbook of Australian, New Zealand and Antarctic Birds, Volume 2: Raptors to Lapwings. Melbourne: Oxford University Press.
  • Menkhorst, P., Rogers, D., Clarke, R., Davies, J.N., Marsack, P., Franklin, K. & CSIRO, issuing body (2017). The Australian Bird Guide. Clayton South, VIC: CSIRO Publishing.