hen harrier

hen harrier defined in 1930 year

hen harrier - Hen Harrier;
hen harrier - Upper parts of adult male bluish grey; lower parts white; beak black; irides reddish brown; legs and feet yellow; claws black.

Female: upper parts reddish brown; under parts pale reddish yellow, with deep orange-brown, longitudinal streaks and spots. Length: male, eighteen inches; female, twenty inches.

This very handsome and graceful hawk was fairly common within recent times in the British Islands. But the incessant persecution of all birds of prey by game-preservers is having its effect. It is plain to see that as British species they are being extirpated; and the first to vanish are the harriers, owing to their fatal habit of breeding in the open country on the ground. For while most birds have a close time allowed them, the hawks are sought out and destroyed, old and young, during the breeding season. Thus the marsh-harrier, which should have come first in this place, is now extinct in this country, and cannot be introduced into a work on British birds which does not include the great auk, the bustard, the spoonbill, and many other species which have been exterminated in England. The hen harrier is at the present time very nearly in the same case; it is only included here because a few pairs probably still breed on the wildest and most extensive moors in Wales, the north of England, and the Highlands of Scotland.

The nest is a slight hollow in the ground, scantily lined with a little dry grass; and the eggs are four or five, and rarely six, in number. These are pale bluish white in colour, and in some cases have pale brown markings.

The male hen harrier, seen on the wing when quartering the ground in quest of prey, keeping but a few feet above the surface, is certainly one of our handsomest hawks. Its flight, although not wavering, is as buoyant as that of the common tern, and the pale colouring - soft blue-grey above and white beneath - seems in harmony with its slender figure and airy, graceful motions. On account of its blue colour it has been called the dove-hawk. It preys on small birds, mammals, and reptiles, dropping suddenly upon them in the manner of the kestrel, but from a less height. The origin of its name of hen harrier is not known. Yarrell conjectured that it was on account of its predilection for the produce of the farmyard; which seems unlikely, as the harriers are usually hunters of very small deer. A more probable explanation is that the male bird was formerly supposed to be the female of the ringtail-harrier; but we know now that the hen harrier is the cock bird, and the ringtail the hen.

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