Nature conservation

Threatened species

Spotted Harrier - profile

Indicative distribution

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The areas shown in pink and/purple are the sub-regions where the species or community is known or predicted to occur. They may not occur thoughout the sub-region but may be restricted to certain areas. ( click here to see geographic restrictions). The information presented in this map is only indicative and may contain errors and omissions.
Scientific name: Circus assimilis
Conservation status in NSW: Vulnerable
Commonwealth status: Not listed
Gazetted date: 12 Feb 2010
Profile last updated: 07 Sep 2012


The Spotted Harrier is a medium-sized, slender bird of prey having an owl-like facial ruff that creates the appearance of a short, broad head, and long bare yellow legs. The upperparts are blue-grey with dark barring, and the wingtips are black. The face, innerwing patch, and underparts are chestnut. The long tail is boldly banded, with a wedge-shaped tip. Juveniles are mottled and streaked ginger and brown, with prominent ginger shoulders, fawn rump and banded tail.


The Spotted Harrier occurs throughout the Australian mainland, except in densly forested or wooded habitats of the coast, escarpment and ranges, and rarely in Tasmania. Individuals disperse widely in NSW and comprise a single population.

Habitat and ecology

  • Occurs in grassy open woodland including Acacia and mallee remnants, inland riparian woodland, grassland and shrub steppe. It is found most commonly in native grassland, but also occurs in agricultural land, foraging over open habitats including edges of inland wetlands.
  • Builds a stick nest in a tree and lays eggs in spring (or sometimes autumn), with young remaining in the nest for several months.
  • Preys on terrestrial mammals (eg bandicoots, bettongs, and rodents), birds and reptile, occasionally insects and rarely carrion.

Regional distribution and habitat

Click on a region below to view detailed distribution, habitat and vegetation information.


Recovery strategies

Activities to assist this species

Information sources

CMA CMA sub-region Known or predicted Geographic restrictions region
Border Rivers-GwydirBundarra Downs (Part A) Predicted None
Border Rivers-GwydirCastlereagh-Barwon Known None
Border Rivers-GwydirDeepwater Downs Known
Border Rivers-GwydirGlenn Innes-Guyra Basalts Known None
Border Rivers-GwydirInverell Basalts Known None
Border Rivers-GwydirMoredun Volcanics Known None
Border Rivers-GwydirNandewar, Northern Complex Known
Border Rivers-GwydirNorthern Basalts Known None
Border Rivers-GwydirNorthern Outwash Known None
Border Rivers-GwydirPeel Known None
Border Rivers-GwydirTenterfield Plateau Known None
Border Rivers-GwydirYarrowyck-Kentucky Downs Known None
Central WestBathurst Known
Central WestBogan-Macquarie Known None
Central WestCanbelego Downs Known None
Central WestCapertee Known None
Central WestCastlereagh-Barwon Known None
Central WestHill End Known None
Central WestKerrabee Known None
Central WestLiverpool Range Known None
Central WestLower Slopes Known None
Central WestNymagee-Rankins Springs Known None
Central WestOrange Known None
Central WestPilliga Known None
Central WestPilliga Outwash Known None
Central WestTalbragar Valley Known None
Central WestUpper Slopes Known None
Central WestWollemi Known None
Hawkesbury-NepeanBurragorang (Part A) Known None
Hawkesbury-NepeanCapertee (Part A) Known None
Hawkesbury-NepeanCumberland Known None
Hawkesbury-NepeanMonaro Known None
Hawkesbury-NepeanMoss Vale Known
Hawkesbury-NepeanPittwater Known None
Hawkesbury-NepeanSydney Cataract Predicted None
Hawkesbury-NepeanWollemi Predicted
Hawkesbury-NepeanYengo Known None
Hunter-Central RiversHunter Known None
Hunter-Central RiversKaruah Manning Known None
Hunter-Central RiversKerrabee Known None
Hunter-Central RiversLiverpool Range Known None
Hunter-Central RiversMacleay Hastings Known None
Hunter-Central RiversMummel Escarpment Known None
Hunter-Central RiversPilliga Predicted None
Hunter-Central RiversTomalla Known None
Hunter-Central RiversUpper Hunter Known None
Hunter-Central RiversWollemi (Part A) Predicted None
Hunter-Central RiversWollemi (Part C) Predicted None
Hunter-Central RiversWyong Known None
Hunter-Central RiversYengo Predicted None
LachlanBarnato Downs Known None
LachlanCrookwell Known
LachlanDarling Depression (Part A) Known None
LachlanDarling Depression (Part B) Known None
LachlanLachlan Known None
LachlanLachlan Plains Known None
LachlanLower Slopes Known None
LachlanMurrumbateman Predicted None
LachlanNymagee-Rankins Springs Known None
LachlanOrange Known None
LachlanSouth Olary Plain, Murray Basin Sands Known None
LachlanUpper Slopes Known None
Lower Murray-DarlingBarrier Range (Part A) Predicted None
Lower Murray-DarlingBarrier Range (Part B) Known None
Lower Murray-DarlingBarrier Range Outwash, Fans and Plains Known None
Lower Murray-DarlingDarling Depression Known None
Lower Murray-DarlingGreat Darling Anabranch Known None
Lower Murray-DarlingLachlan (Part A) Known None
Lower Murray-DarlingLachlan (Part B) Predicted None
Lower Murray-DarlingMenindee Known None
Lower Murray-DarlingMurray Scroll Belt Known None
Lower Murray-DarlingPooncarie-Darling Known None
Lower Murray-DarlingRobinvale Plains (Part A) Predicted None
Lower Murray-DarlingRobinvale Plains (Part B) Known None
Lower Murray-DarlingRobinvale Plains (Part C) Known
Lower Murray-DarlingSouth Olary Plain, Murray Basin Sands (Part A) Predicted None
Lower Murray-DarlingSouth Olary Plain, Murray Basin Sands (Part B) Known None
Lower Murray-DarlingSouth Olary Plain, Murray Basin Sands (Part C) Known None
Lower Murray-DarlingSouth Olary Plain, Murray Basin Sands (Part D) Known None
Lower Murray-DarlingSouth Olary Plain, Murray Basin Sands (Part E) Known None
MurrayBondo Known
MurrayLower Slopes Known None
MurrayMurray Fans Known None
MurrayMurrumbidgee Known
MurrayNew South Wales Alps Predicted None
MurraySouth Olary Plain, Murray Basin Sands (Part A) Known
MurraySouth Olary Plain, Murray Basin Sands (Part B) Known None
MurrayUpper Slopes Known None
MurrumbidgeeBondo Known None
MurrumbidgeeBondo Predicted None
MurrumbidgeeDarling Depression Known None
MurrumbidgeeLachlan Known
MurrumbidgeeLachlan Plains Known None
MurrumbidgeeLower Slopes Known None
MurrumbidgeeMonaro Known None
MurrumbidgeeMurrumbateman Known None
MurrumbidgeeMurrumbidgee Known None
MurrumbidgeeNew South Wales Alps (Part A) Predicted None
MurrumbidgeeNew South Wales Alps (Part B) Known None
MurrumbidgeeSouth Olary Plain, Murray Basin Sands (Part A) Known
MurrumbidgeeSouth Olary Plain, Murray Basin Sands (Part B) Known None
MurrumbidgeeUpper Slopes Known None
NamoiCastlereagh-Barwon Known None
NamoiEastern Nandewars Known None
NamoiKaputar Known None
NamoiLiverpool Plains (Part A) Predicted None
NamoiLiverpool Plains (Part B) Known None
NamoiLiverpool Range Known None
NamoiNorthern Basalts Predicted
NamoiPeel Known None
NamoiPilliga (Part A) Known None
NamoiPilliga (Part B) Known None
NamoiPilliga Outwash Known None
Northern RiversArmidale Plateau Known None
Northern RiversChaelundi Known None
Northern RiversClarence Lowlands Known None
Northern RiversClarence Sandstones Known None
Northern RiversCoffs Coast & Escarpment Known None
Northern RiversEbor Basalts Known None
Northern RiversMacleay Hastings Known None
Northern RiversMurwillumbah (Qld - Southeast Hills and Ranges) Known None
Northern RiversRichmond - Tweed (Qld - Scenic Rim) (Part A) Known None
Northern RiversStanthorpe Plateau Known None
Northern RiversWalcha Plateau Known None
Northern RiversWoodenbong Known None
Northern RiversYuraygir Known
Southern RiversBateman Known None
Southern RiversBurragorang Predicted None
Southern RiversIllawarra Known None
Southern RiversJervis Known None
Southern RiversMonaro (Part A) Predicted None
Southern RiversMonaro (Part B) Predicted None
Southern RiversMonaro (Part C) Known None
Southern RiversMoss Vale Known None
Southern RiversSouth East Coastal Plains Known None
Southern RiversSouth East Coastal Ranges (Part C) Known
Sydney MetroCumberland Known None
Sydney MetroPittwater (Part A) Known
Sydney MetroPittwater (Part B) Known None
Sydney MetroSydney Cataract Known None
WesternBarnato Downs (Part A) Known None
WesternBarnato Downs (Part B) Known
WesternBarrier Range Known None
WesternBarrier Range Outwash, Fans and Plains (Part A) Known
WesternBarrier Range Outwash, Fans and Plains (Part B) Predicted None
WesternBarrier Range Outwash, Fans and Plains (Part C) Known None
WesternBogan-Macquarie Known
WesternBoorindal Plains (Part A) Predicted None
WesternBoorindal Plains (Part B) Known None
WesternBulloo Dunefields Known None
WesternBulloo Overflow Known None
WesternCanbelego Downs Known None
WesternCastlereagh-Barwon (Part A) Known None
WesternCastlereagh-Barwon (Part B) Predicted None
WesternCentral Depression Known None
WesternCentral Downs - Fringing Tablelands and Downs Known None
WesternCore Ranges (Part 13A) Known
WesternCore Ranges (Part A) Known
WesternCulgoa-Bokhara Known None
WesternDarling Depression Known None
WesternKerribree Basin Known None
WesternLouth Plains Known None
WesternMenindee Predicted None
WesternMoonie - Barwon Interfluve, Collarenebri Interfluve Known None
WesternMootwingee Downs Known None
WesternNarrandool 21 Known None
WesternNebine Plains, Block Range (Part A) Predicted None
WesternNebine Plains, Block Range (Part B) Known None
WesternNymagee-Rankins Springs Known
WesternParoo Overflow Known None
WesternParoo Sand Sheets, Cuttaburra-Paroo Known None
WesternParoo-Darling Sands Known None
WesternScopes Range Known
WesternSouth Olary Plain, Murray Basin Sands Known
WesternStrzelecki Desert, Western Dunefields Known None
WesternUrisino Sandplains Known None
WesternWarrambool-Moonie Known None
WesternWarrego Plains (Part A) Known
WesternWarrego Plains (Part B) Predicted None
WesternWarrego Sands Predicted None
WesternWest Warrego - Tablelands and Downs (Part A) Predicted None
WesternWest Warrego - Tablelands and Downs (Part B) Predicted None
WesternWest Warrego - Tablelands and Downs (Part C) Predicted None
WesternWhite Cliffs Plateau Known None
WesternWilcannia Plains Known None