|Conservation status||Least concern|
The long-winged harrier is small, with a length of 19 to 21 inches, a wingspan of 47 to 61 inches, and a weight of 13.7 to 16.3 ounces in males, 14.1 to 22.7 ounces in females. The eyes of adult males are yellow, those of the adult females are reddish brown. The beak is blue-gray. The legs and feet are pale yellow to orange yellow.
The males of the light morph are dark slate gray on the upper body and chest. The forehead, the eyelid strips, the front cheeks and the throat are white. The eyes are framed by a black ring, while white strokes emphasize the dark facial disk. The tail is mostly silver gray with white feather tips on the tail plumage and black transverse bands on the remaining plumage. The breast and the belly are white with single small black spots. Females have a similar plumage, but the slate gray areas are a bit more brownish. In dark morph, the plumage is predominantly Russet black to dark chestnut brown. The breast and belly is black. In these, the thighs and occasionally the rumps are more intense chestnut brown. Even with this color morph, the tail feathers are silver gray.
Range and habitat
The long-winged harrier is found from Colombia to Guyana and French Guiana as well as Trinidad. To the south, the range extends to Brazil, Paraguay and Uruguay, into the north and interior of Argentina. Non-breeding harriers also occur in Bolivia and the eastern Panama.
They live and hunt in extensive marshes and small lagoons with extensive riparian vegetation, or in areas with heavily-degraded or sparsely-covered forest; they also live in wet grasslands and open agricultural areas such as rice fields, but tend to avoid human habitations. They are found from sea level to an elevation of over 3,000 feet, with the majority of birds living below 2,100 feet.
The long-winged harrier lives either solitary or in pairs. However, in regions where numbers are high, occasionally four to six individuals can be observed simultaneously in the air. They nest in these regions more often in closer proximity, the distance between nests is sometimes only 300 feet.
The diet consists predominantly of frogs, small mammals such as guinea pigs and waterfowl such as moorhens and coots. They also eat eggs and lizards. They occasionally take the eggs and juveniles in heron colonies. As with other harries, they look for prey in a low search flight, often while flying at an altitude of three feet or less.
The breeding season falls in the interior of Argentina in the months of September to January, while in the Guianas it was observed to take place December through January. The nest is a platform of reeds and grasses with a diameter of 1.5 to 2.3 feet. The height of the platform depends on the location. In dry grasslands, the platform is often only a foot high or less, while in the reeds the platform can be up to three feet high. Two bluish-white eggs are laid, with the male feeding the female as she incubates them.