T.E.R:R.A.I.N - Taranaki Educational Resource: Research, Analysis and Information Network

Australasian Harrier (Circus approximans)

Kingdom: Animalia
Phylum: Chordata
Class: Aves
Order: Accipitriformes
Family: Accipitridae
Genus: Circus
Species: C. approximans
Binomial name: Circus approximans
Common names: Australasian Harrier, Swamp harrier, Marsh harrier, kāhu, New Zealand hawk, ‘Kahu’ Swamp Harrier.

Circus approximans is a large, slim raptor that is widespread through many islands in the south-west Pacific region, including much of Australia (except the arid regions), New Zealand, Fiji, Vanuatu, New Caledonia and as stragglers on some sub-Antarctic islands. It the most common bird of prey in New Zealand and it is usually found in wetlands and well-watered open country. It is one of the few birds to have benefited from European-New Zealand settlement: It is a bird of open country and became firmly established after forests were cleared.

Circus approximans is a dark brown, becoming lighter with age, and has a distinct white rump. This species has a body length > 58 cm, a wingspan >1.2 meters and they stand around 50cm tall. The wings are long and broad, with 5 'fingers' on the wing tips in flight. The legs and eyes are yellow. The recorded weights of adults range from 580 to 1100 g, and females are significantly larger than the males. They generally nest in swamps or in areas surrounded by water to reduce access by predators. Occasionally they will also nest in grasslands, trees where they make a large nest platform out of grass and sticks. 

They hunt by flying slowly, low to the ground, on upswept wings. During the spring and summer months, they will feed mostly on live prey such as ground birds, water birds, rabbits, vermin like rats and mice, lizards, frogs and fish. During the winter months, they feed to a large extent on carrion, including roadkill, frequently falling victim to vehicles themselves.

The legal protection of harriers has recently been downgraded meaning that it is now legal to kill harriers if they are causing injury to livestock, damage to property and if they are perceived to have a negative impact on a threatened species.


Thanks to Wikipedia for text and information https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/3.0/