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 Northern Harrier

Status in Michigan
Fairly Common Transient

Early Spring Date

Late Fall Date
Note: Early and Late Dates are being researched.
Image Credits
Count totals in the NMB Databases for Northern Harrier.

Use the links below to view the Northern Harrier reports in the respective databases.
If there are zero sightings for a particular season, that database will return no results.

Active Database - Spring 2005
View Northern Harrier sightings.
Northern Harrier Archives Reports
Fall 2003 85
Spring 2003 143
Winter 02-03 29
Fall 2002 84
Summer 2002 8
Spring 2002 147
Winter 01-02 38
Fall 2001 80
Summer 2001 7
Spring 2001 105
Winter 00-01 23
Fall 2000 266
Summer 2000 8
Spring 2000 94
Winter 00-99 45
Fall 1999 1001
Spring/Summer 1999 18

NMB Database
Seasonal Percentage Graph
For: Northern Harrier

Whitefish Point Bird Observatory
Active Database - Fall 2003
View Fall 2003 sightings.
Whitefish Point Bird Observatory Official Seasonal Count Summaries for the Northern Harrier
Fall 1999-Spring 2002
Northern Harrier
Note: Some species will not be present in the WPBO archives and will return no records.

Search "The Birds of Michigan" text.

Home - Foreword - Preface - Introduction - Hypothetical List - Literature Cited

Historical Text

Circus cyaneus hudsonius (Linnaeus)
Marsh Hawk (A.O.U. 1998: Northern Harrier)
U.M.M.Z. Animal Diversity Reference

Common summer resident and transient. A few winter regularly north to Livingston County, and (rarely?) to Saginaw and Arenac counties.

First listed for Michigan by Sager (1839: 413).

SPRING.-In southern counties where a few winter, a gradual increase in the number of Marsh Hawks becomes noticeable in early March. In the Upper Peninsula the movement occurs principally in April. No large flights have been reported in Michigan.

Lower Peninsula.-Although L. W. Campbell (1940: 58) listed the Marsh Hawk as an abundant permanent resident in the Toledo-Erie marsh area, he noted a marked migration period between March 6 and April 28. In the vicinity of Detroit, April seems to be the period of greatest abundance (Swales); at Rockwood, Wayne County, Taverner saw 8 Marsh Hawks on April 12 (1908), according to Swales' notes. Among the dunes of Berrien County a number were migrating during the last 3- days of April, 1918 (N. A. Wood, 1922: 12). I. H. Sabin collected a specimen (U.M.M.Z.) as early as March 1 (1928) at Sand Point, Huron County (possibly a wintering bird) ; and 3 were seen there among other migrating hawks as late as May 1 (1931) by D. W. Douglass.

Upper Peninsula.-At both Blaney, Schoolcraft County (Christofferson), and McMillan, Luce County (Bryens), the Marsh Hawk has arrived rather regularly in the first and second weeks of April, but sometimes in the last week of March. At Blaney in 1936 there were 5 Marsh Hawks on March 31 and 6 on April 2. Christofferson and Magee reported one at Sault Ste Marie, as early as March 3 (1927), and one shot (presumably at Munuscong Bay in the same county) on March 7 (1928) by H. Thorn.

SUMMER.-Eggs have been noted as early as mid-April.

Lower Peninsula.-Current nest records are fairly numerous for Washtenaw, Jackson (Fargo, 1923: 305-7; Barnes, 1929: 128; Leonard "Wing and others, 1930; 64), Calhoun, Kalamazoo (F. W. Rapp, 1931; 12), and Berrien (N. A. Woods, 1922: 12-13) counties. In Convis Township, Calhoun County, and vicinity, "Walkinshaw has found 1 or more nests almost yearly since 1930; he recorded a nest with 3 eggs there as early as April 17 (1938), and a young bird able to fly that he caught and banded as it was leaving the nest on August 5, 1934. P. S. Baumgras (1942: 50) re- ported a 10-egg set in southeastern Clinton County, from which 7 young had hatched by June 11 (1941). At the Prairie Farm, Alicia, Saginaw County, in 1940 Q. A. Ammann and Frank Martin discovered 4 nests (young left one of the nests on July 20 and another on August 12). Near Lovells, Crawford County, 1 or 2 individuals were seen frequently during the summer of 1931 (Leonard Wing and N. A. Wood) and a nest with 4 eggs was found on May 29, 2023 (Walkinshaw, A. D. Tinker, R. E. Olsen, N. A. Wood). Van Tyne (1925: 616) reported the species "numerous" in Charlevoix County in 1923. The species is "the hawk most frequently seen" in summer at Douglas Lake, Cheboygan County (Blanchard and Nelson, MS of 1937; see also N. A. Wood, Smith, and Gates, 1916: 9).

Upper Peninsula.-At Whitefish Point, Chippewa County, the Marsh Hawk was the most numerous of all the summer hawks in 1912 and 1914 (N. A. Wood, 1914: 63), and through much of the peninsula it was found to be "common on marshy edges" (Walkinshaw) from 1933 to 1935. Other reports (for the Huron Mountain region, Marquette County: Christy, 1925: 210; and S. S. Gregory, Jr., 1929: 176; for Copper Harbor, Keweenaw County: N. A. Wood, 1933: 718; and for Isle Royale: Peet, 1909:348) indicate that the species is uncommon in the peninsula.

The species has been found nesting at Munuscong Bay, Chippewa County (4 eggs on June 2, 1935, reported by "Walkinshaw); at Seney, Schoolcraft County (5 eggs on June 2, 1938, reported by Brodkorb) ; and at Sidnaw, Houghton County, where downy young (U.M.M.Z.) were se- cured on July 7, 1932, by Leonard Wing (1940: 175).

FALL.-Exact information on the fall migration is very meager, especially in southern counties, where the species occurs regularly in winter. The movement apparently occurs chiefly in September and October.

Upper Peninsula.-On Isle Royale the species was seen until September 13 (Max M. Peet, 1909o; 109, 118; and 1909: 348) ; at Covington, Baraga County, on October 5(1 bird in 1934, by Trautman); and in the Huron Mountain region, Marquette County, until October 2 (S. S. Gregory, Jr., 1929 : 176). At Blaney, Schoolcraft County (Christofferson), and at McMillan, Luce County (Bryens), however, individuals have remained with considerable regularity through the third week of October, occasion- ally through the fourth week, and rarely later (November 13, 1940, at McMillan, reported by Bryens, 1940o; 125).

Lower Peninsula.-Trautman, in 26 field days on dates ranging from October 1 to November 28 (1935-1940) at Houghton Lake, Roscommon County, saw 1 or 2 individuals on each of 4 days (from October 10 to November 8). In the extensive hawk flight of September, 1929, near Muskegon, 11 Marsh Hawks (several in U.M.M.Z.) were shot by F. Antisdale and other wardens on September 27.

WINTER.-In the Detroit area, where Swales (1903: 15; and 1903o;23) found the Marsh Hawk rather rare in winter, a few have since been observed and 2 specimens (U.M.M.Z. and Max M. Peet collection) taken. On recent Christmas-season counts and throughout the winter, 1 or 2 have been noted regularly and specimens (U.M.M.Z.) collected in the Ann Arbor region, in Jackson County (Fargo and others), about Battle Creek ("Walkinshaw, Pirnie, and others), and in Kalamazoo County (F. W. Rapp, 1931:12). At the Prairie Farm, Alicia, Saginaw County, in 1940, G. A. Ammann saw 1 on January 17 and thereafter; and along the shore of Saginaw Bay near Au Gres, Arenac County, Maurice G. Brooks, John L. George, Tudor Richards, and others identified 1 on January 24, 1941.

Mueseum of Zoology, University of Michigan, No. 75
The Birds of Michigan
By: Norman A. Wood
University of Michigan Press
August 28, 2023

Digitized by: Keith F. Saylor
[email protected]

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