2020 Photo competition now open

Date posted: 15-Jan-2020

This year's photo competition is now open for entries. Please click here (/m..

AGM 2019

Date posted: 09-Sep-2019

Our Annual General Meeting was held at 7:30 pm on Monday 23rd September at the F..

More plaudits for Tiritiri Matangi

Date posted: 15-Jul-2019

Recognition of the wonderful experience visitors have when visiting the Island h..

Results of the 2019 Photo Competition

Date posted: 15-Jul-2019

The results of this year's competition have now been decided. Click here (/2019-photo-co..

Lighthouse Open Day

Date posted: 30-Apr-2019

Our historic lighthouse, signal station and diaphonic foghorn will all be on dis..

We need a new Treasurer

Date posted: 08-Apr-2019

The Supporters need a new treasurer to take over in September when Kevin Vaughan..

2019 Concert

Date posted: 05-Feb-2019

OrigiNZ, the tartan taonga are returning for the 2019 concert. Click..

Tiri's three unique foghorns

Date posted: 01-Feb-2019

Our next social event will take place on Monday 18th March when Carl Hayson and ..

Young Conservation Superstars win awards!

Date posted: 27-Jan-2019

Gabriel Barbosa and teacher Kate Asher, a team leader who co..

Entries for the 2019 photo competition

Date posted: 19-Jan-2019

We are now taking entries for the 2019 photographic competition. You can enter u..

Australasian Harrier

Scientific name:

 Circus approximans 

Maori Name:




Conservation status

 Native. Not threatened

Mainland status:

 Widespread and locally common


 55cm, 650g (males) 850g (females)


 Oldest recorded in NZ: 18 years


 September - December


 Carrion and live prey

The Australasian harrier, known as the swamp harrier in Australia, is a large brown raptor with long fingered wings held in a v-shape, and a long slightly rounded tail. The very dark brown juvenile has a prominent white patch on the back of the head, brown upper tail and brown eye. The adult has a distinctive pale facial disc with head and upperparts dark brown. Underparts are reddish brown streaked dark brown and underwings are barred at the tips. The light brown tail is barred dark brown and the upper tail is white. Males have a yellow eye and the females a pale yellow eye. As they become paler with age some very old males can be seen with frosty-grey upperparts, pale buff underparts and white underwings.

Harriers are usually silent except for an occasional whistle, but in the breeding season during display flights the male utters a high–pitched ‘kee-a’, to which the female responds with a ‘kee-o’.

Harriers hunt by day, either by slowly quartering the ground or by hovering and then dropping vertically to catch their prey in their sharp  talons. They eat carrion (sheep, possums, hedgehogs, waterfowl and other game birds) as well as catching live prey (mainly small mammals, especially rabbits, hares, hedgehogs, rats, mice, birds, ducks and eggs, frogs, fish, lizards and large invertebrates such as grasshoppers and crickets).

Breeding is between September and February. The bulky nest of sticks, bracken, manuka, grasses and rushes is usually sited on the ground in raupo swamps, bracken-fern, clumps of pampas or on road verges. Over a period of days 3–5 off-white eggs are laid and incubated by the female for 31–34 days. The eggs hatch over a few days, and the youngest chicks often don’t survive. Although the male gathers food for the female and chicks, only she feeds the chicks. They fledge at 43–46 days old and finally disperse about seven weeks after fledging.

It is not unusual to see harriers soaring over Tiritiri Matangi in search of prey. They have large territorial ranges and frequently visit from the mainland. They have been known to take brown teal/pateke and kokako. Harriers only take prey that is on the ground, on a pond or in a tree, so a bird’s best way of escaping a harrier’s talons is to take flight. Flocks of birds have been observed mobbing harriers as they hunt and occasionally are successful in chasing them out of an area.

Learn more about the Australasian harrier at New Zealand Birds Online.

Photography by Max McRae ©

References: Heather, B.D.; Robertson, H.A. 2000 The Field Guide to the Birds of New Zealand. Auckland, Viking. Moon, G The Reed Field Guide to New Zealand Birds.