Definition of hen harrier in US English:

hen harrier


  • A widespread harrier of open country, the male of which is mainly pale gray and the female brown; a northern harrier.

    Circus cyaneus, family Accipitridae

    • ‘As we enjoyed watching hundreds of them flying in to a stubble field to rest and doze in the midday sun, my wife spotted a ring-tail hen harrier quartering a beet field yet to be harvested.’
    • ‘The hen harrier has suffered in recent years because of more intensive farming methods on its favoured breeding grounds of remote moorland, plus illegal persecution by land owners.’
    • ‘A big raptor flew low and light over the scene under the open sky, a hen harrier, a heavy-duty killer.’
    • ‘The hen harrier is a bird of prey, belonging to the same family as hawks, vultures, and eagles.’
    • ‘The tracking also showed that a peregrine falcon took a juvenile hen harrier fledged from one of the eight successful nests.’


Mid 16th century: so named because it was believed to prey on poultry.