Northern Harrier (Circus cyaneus)
Upon first glance this unusual raptor may be mistaken for an owl as its facial disk does give it a very owl-like appearance, but the northern harrier is most certainly a hawk. The disk functions in just the same manner as that of an owl’s - with stiff facial feathers directing sound towards their ears. Unlike other hawks, the northern harriers relies heavily on its sense of hearing to locate prey.
They are often seen gliding slow and low over marshes and grasslands, listening for potential meals. Meals typically include small mammals and small birds, but the northern harrier is also capable of tackling larger animals such as rabbits and ducks - and will occasionally subdue larger prey by drowning them.
The unusual behaviour continues with males breeding with upwards of five partners at once. Impressively, while the females incubate eggs and brood newly hatched chicks, the male provides food for all of his offspring and mates. Prior to egg laying, both sexes will collect nesting materials, though females take charge of interior decorating and arrange the materials to form the nest.
The Wild and Exotic Animal Medicine Society (WEAMS) is a non-profit organization operated by student volunteers at the Western College of Veterinary Medicine (WCVM) Veterinary Medical Centre. This northern harrier, named Bolt, has been under the care of the WCVM since September 13th, 2015 when she was discovered in a field with a broken radius. Her rehabilitation is ongoing and she will be released pending a clean bill of health.