Western marsh harrier

The western marsh harrier (Circus aeruginosus) is a large harrier, a bird of prey from temperate and subtropical western Eurasia and adjacent Africa. It is also known as the Eurasian marsh harrier. The genus name Circus is derived from the Ancient Greek kirkos, referring to a bird of prey named for its circling flight (kirkos, "circle"), probably the hen harrier. The specific aeruginosus is Latin for "rusty".[2]

Formerly, a number of relatives were included in C. aeruginosus, which was then known as "marsh harrier". The related taxa are now generally considered to be separate species: the eastern marsh harrier (C. spilonotus), the Papuan harrier (C. spilothorax) of eastern Asia and the Wallacea, the swamp harrier (C. approximans) of Australasia and the Madagascar marsh harrier (C. maillardi) of the western Indian Ocean islands.

The western marsh harrier is often divided into two subspecies, the widely migratory C. a. aeruginosus which is found across most of its range, and C. a. harterti which is resident all-year in north-west Africa.

Western marsh harrier
Western Marsh Harrier- Bangalore, India
Scientific classification
Kingdom: Animalia
Phylum: Chordata
Class: Aves
Order: Accipitriformes
Family: Accipitridae
Genus: Circus
C. aeruginosus
Binomial name
Circus aeruginosus
CircusAeruginosusIUCNver2016 3
Range of C. aeruginosus      Breeding      Resident      Non-breeding      Vagrant (seasonality uncertain)

Falco aeruginosus Linnaeus, 1758


Eurasian Marsh Harrier (Circus aeruginosus)- Female near Hodal I Picture 2101
A fairly pale adult female (note brown remiges and yellow eye) winters near Hodal (Faridabad district, Haryana, India)
Adult male (front), juvenile (behind) and adult female (back), illustration from 1899

The western marsh harrier is 43 to 54 cm (17 to 21 in) in length, has a wingspan of 115 to 130 cm (45 to 51 in) and a weight of 400 to 650 g (14 to 23 oz) in males and 500 to 800 g (18 to 28 oz) in females. It is a large, bulky harrier with fairly broad wings, and has a strong and peculiar sexual dichromatism. The male's plumage is mostly a cryptic reddish-brown with lighter yellowish streaks, which are particularly prominent on the breast. The head and shoulders are mostly pale greyish-yellowish. The rectrices and the secondary and tertiary remiges are pure grey, the latter contrasting with the brown forewing and the black primary remiges at the wingtips. The upperside and underside of the wing look similar, though the brown is lighter on the underwing. Whether from the side or below, flying males appear characteristically three-colored brown-grey-black. The legs, feet, irides and the cere of the black bill are yellow.

The female is almost entirely chocolate-brown. The top of the head, the throat and the shoulders have of a conspicuously lighter yellowish colour; this can be clearly delimited and very contrasting, or (particularly in worn plumage) be more washed-out, resembling the male's head colours. But the eye area of the female is always darker, making the light eye stand out, while the male's head is altogether not very contrastingly coloured and the female lacks the grey wing-patch and tail. Juveniles are similar to females, but usually have less yellow, particularly on the shoulders.

There is a rare hypermelanic morph with largely dark plumage. It is most often found in the east of the species' range. Juveniles of this morph may look entirely black in flight.

Distribution and ecology

Marsh Harrier Male
The male is characterised by the very clear chestnut brown mantle and the grey secondaries and black outer primaries

This species has a wide breeding range from Europe and northwestern Africa to Central Asia and the northern parts of the Middle East. It breeds in almost every country of Europe but is absent from mountainous regions and subarctic Scandinavia. It is rare but increasing in Great Britain where it has spread as far as eastern Scotland.[3] In the Middle East there are populations in Turkey, Iraq, and Iran, while in Central Asia the range extends eastwards as far as north-west China, Mongolia, and the Lake Baikal region of Siberia.

Most populations of the western marsh harrier are migratory or dispersive. Some birds winter in milder regions of southern and western Europe, while others migrate to the Sahel, Nile basin and Great Lakes region in Africa, or to Arabia, the Indian subcontinent, and Myanmar. The all-year resident subspecies harterti inhabits Morocco, Algeria, and Tunisia.

Vagrants have reached Iceland, the Azores, Malaysia, and Sumatra. The first documented (but unconfirmed) record for the Americas was one bird reportedly photographed on 4 December 1994 at Chincoteague National Wildlife Refuge in Accomack County, Virginia. Subsequently, there were confirmed records from Guadeloupe (winter of 2002/2003), from Laguna Cartagena National Wildlife Refuge in Puerto Rico (early 2004 and January/February 2006)[4][5][6] and in Bermuda (December 2015).[7]

Marsh Harrier Female - Wikimedia
The female usually is identifiable by the rather dark plumage except the creamy crown, nape, and throat

Like the other marsh harriers, it is strongly associated with wetland areas, especially those rich in common reed (Phragmites australis). It can also be met with in a variety of other open habitats, such as farmland and grassland, particularly where these border marshland. It is a territorial bird in the breeding season, and even in winter it seems less social than other harriers, which often gather in large flocks.[8] But this is probably simply due to habitat preferences, as the marsh harriers are completely allopatric while several of C. aeruginosus grassland and steppe relatives winter in the same regions and assemble at food sources such as locust outbreaks. Still, in Keoladeo National Park of Rajasthan (India) around 100 Eurasian marsh harriers are observed to roost together each November/December; they assemble in tall grassland dominated by Desmostachya bipinnata and vetiver (Chrysopogon zizanioides), but where this is too disturbed by human activity they will use floating carpets of common water hyacinth (Eichhornia crassipes) instead – the choice of such roost sites may be to give early warning of predators, which will conspicuously rustle through the plants if they try to sneak upon the resting birds[9]

It hunts in typical harrier fashion, gliding low over flat open ground on its search for prey, with its wings held in a shallow V-shape and often with dangling legs.


It feeds on small mammals, small birds, insects, reptiles, and frogs.[10][11]


The start of the breeding season varies from mid-March to early May. Western marsh harrier males often pair with two and occasionally three females. Pair bonds usually last for a single breeding season, but some pairs remain together for several years.

The ground nest is made of sticks, reeds and grasses. It is usually built in a reedbed, but the species will also nest in arable fields. There are between three and eight eggs in a normal clutch. The eggs are oval in shape and white in colour, with a bluish or greenish tinge when recently laid. The eggs are incubated for 31–38 days and the young birds fledge after 30–40 days.[12]

Status and conservation

Eurasian Marsh Harrier (Circus aeruginosus) in Kolkata W
Wintering female hunting near Kolkata (West Bengal, India)
Roo-loorkull Paunküla veehoidla kohal
Western marsh harrier in Estonia
Bruine kiekendief Circus aeruginosus Jos Zwarts 2
Circus aeruginosus by Jos Zwarts

The western marsh harrier declined in many areas between the 19th and the late 20th centuries due to persecution, habitat destruction and excessive pesticide use. It is a now a protected species in many countries. In Great Britain, the population was likely extinct by the end of the 19th century. A single pair in Horsey, Norfolk bred in 1911, and by 2006, the Rare Breeding Birds Panel had recorded at least 265 females rearing 453 young. It made a comeback in Ireland as well, where it had become extinct in 1918.[13]

It still faces a number of threats, including the shooting of birds migrating through the Mediterranean region. They are vulnerable to disturbance during the breeding season and also liable to lead shot poisoning. Still, the threats to this bird have been largely averted and it is today classified as Species of Least Concern by the IUCN.[1]


  1. ^ a b BirdLife International (2013). "Circus aeruginosus". IUCN Red List of Threatened Species. Version 2013.2. International Union for Conservation of Nature. Retrieved 26 November 2013.
  2. ^ Jobling, James A. (2010). The Helm Dictionary of Scientific Bird Names. London: Christopher Helm. pp. 34, 109. ISBN 978-1-4081-2501-4.
  3. ^ Holling, Mark (September 2010). Rare Birds Breeding Panel. "Rare breeding birds in the United Kingdom in 2008" (PDF). British Birds. 103: 482–538.
  4. ^ American Ornithologists' Union 2000
  5. ^ Banks et al. 2005
  6. ^ Merkord, Rodríguez & Faaborg 2006
  7. ^ "Birders Spot New Species at Annual Count". The Royal Gazette. The Royal Gazette.
  8. ^ Clarke et al. 1998
  9. ^ Verma 2002
  10. ^ "Marsh harrier". RSPB's Birds by Name. Royal Society for the Protection of Birds.
  11. ^ "Marsh Harrier". BBC Nature.
  12. ^ http://www.avibirds.com/html/Western_Marsh-Harrier.html
  13. ^ Parkin, David; Knox, Alan (2008). The Status of Birds in Britain and Ireland. A & C Black. p. 112. Retrieved 2018-06-07.


Further reading

  • Clarke, Roger (1995). The Marsh Harrier. London: Hamlyn. ISBN 978-0600583011.
  • Forsman, Dick (1999). The Raptors of Europe and The Middle East: a Handbook of Field Identification. London: T. & A.D. Poyser.
  • Snow, David W.; Perrins, Christopher M., eds. (1998). The Birds of the Western Palearctic. Vol. 1 (Concise ed.). Oxford University Press. ISBN 0-19-854099-X.

External links


Almindingen ("the common") is one of the largest forests in Denmark. It is located in the centre of the island of Bornholm. The forest covers 3,800 hectares (9,400 acres), making it Denmark's third largest. Though it was at one time common grazing land for cattle, it was fenced in for forestry in 1809 by Hans Rømer, the forest supervisor. As a result, by the beginning of the 20th century, Bornholm had become Denmark's most forested region.Bornholm's highest point is Rytterknægten at 162 metres (531 ft), where there is a memorial to Frederick VII of Denmark and Countess Danner's visit to the island in 1851. In 2012, the Nature Agency brought seven European bison from a Polish primeval forest to a 200 acres (81 ha) paddock in Almindingen, marking the first time in 2,500 years that Europe's heaviest land-living mammals were in Denmark. There are a number of walking paths through Almindingen such as the ones leading to Ekkodal and Gamleborg.


Angarnsjöängen (Swedish: Lake Angarn Meadow, also spelt Angarnssjöängen) is a nature reserve circa 3 kilometres (3.0 km; 1.9 mi) northeast of Vallentuna, in Southern Uppland, Sweden.

It is a wetland with a varying water level depending on the weather. The water rises dramatically each spring as the snow melts and becomes very low by late summer and autumn, creating a good resting place for wading birds. A wetlands restoration project carried out in 1992 markedly increased both the numbers and the variety of birds visiting the site and nesting there. A total of 250 bird species have been observed there during a year.

Among the bird species known to typically nest in the nature reserve are western marsh harrier, northern lapwing, common redshank and western yellow wagtail.The Bronze Age Örstar petroglyphs and Runestone U 211 are both in the immediate vicinity. Angarn Church, dating from the 13th century, also lies close to the nature reserve.

Cladotaenia circi

Cladotaenia circi is a tapeworm of the genus Cladotaenia that has birds of prey as its definitive host, such as the western marsh harrier (Circus aeruginosus), hen harrier (Circus cyaeneus), and peregrine falcon (Falco peregrinus) in Europe. It has been found at low frequencies in small mammals, such as the bank vole (Myodes glareolus) and common vole (Microtus arvalis) in Hungary and the marsh rice rat (Oryzomys palustris) in Florida.

Eastern marsh harrier

The eastern marsh harrier (Circus spilonotus) is a bird of prey belonging to the marsh harrier group of harriers. It was previously considered to be conspecific with the western marsh harrier (Circus aeruginosus) but is now usually classified as a separate species. It has two subspecies: C. s. spilonotus in eastern Asia and C. s. spilothorax (Papuan harrier, perhaps a separate species) in New Guinea.

Gedser Odde

Gedser Odde on the island of Falster in the Baltic Sea is Denmark's southernmost point. The terminal moraine from Idestrup through Skelby to Gedser is part of the maximum glaciation line across Falster, from Orehoved to Gedser. Fronted by low cliffs, the ridge, 5–7 m (16–23 ft) high, continues underwater a further 18 km (11 mi) south-east to Gedser Rev. Sydstenen (the south stone) marks the southernmost point.


Gerede is a town and a district of Bolu Province in the Black Sea region of Turkey. It is located on the highway from Istanbul to Ankara (approximately 150 km (93.21 mi) from Ankara, where the road to the Black Sea coast branches off). It covers an area of 1,255 km2 (484.56 sq mi), and the population (2000) is 41,391 of which 25,200 live in the town of Gerede. Elevation is about 1,450 m. The mayor is Ömer Baygın (AKP).

Gerede is a large area of hill country surrounded by pine-covered mountains, on a passage from central Anatolia to the Black Sea coast. The climate is notoriously cold and wet, enough to make it a centre for cross-country skiing, and traffic on the highway often has to negotiate fog, rain and ice around Gerede.

Hammar Marshes

The Hammar Marshes (Arabic: هور الحمار‎) are a large wetland complex in southeastern Iraq that are part of the Mesopotamian Marshes in the Tigris–Euphrates river system. Historically, the Hammar Marshes extended up to 4,500 km2 (1,700 sq mi) during seasonal floods. They were destroyed during the 1990s by large-scale drainage, dam and dike construction projects. Since 2003, they are recovering following reflooding and destruction of dams.

Harrier (bird)

A harrier is any of the several species of diurnal hawks sometimes placed in the Circinae sub-family of the Accipitridae family of birds of prey. Harriers characteristically hunt by flying low over open ground, feeding on small mammals, reptiles, or birds. The young of the species are sometimes referred to as ring-tail harriers. They are distinctive with long wings, a long narrow tail, the slow and low flight over grasslands and skull peculiarities. The harriers are thought to have diversified with the expansion of grasslands and the emergence of C4 grasses about 6 to 8 million years ago during the Late Miocene and Pliocene.

Hastinapur Wildlife Sanctuary

Hastinapur Wildlife Sanctuary is a protected area in the Gangetic plains of Uttar Pradesh, India. It was established in 1986 and covers 2,073 km2 (800 sq mi) across Meerut, Muzzafarnagar, Ghaziabad, Bijnor, Meerut and Amroha districts.

Khunjerab National Park

Khunjerab National Park (Urdu: خنجراب نیشنل پارک‎) is a national park in Gilgit Baltistan, Pakistan. Khunjerab National Park is Pakistan's third largest national park, and is adjacent to the Taxkorgan Natural Reserve in China.

Kuno National Park

Kuno National Park is a protected area in Madhya Pradesh that received the status of national park in 2018. The protected area was established in 1981 as a wildlife sanctuary with an area of 344.686 km2 (133.084 sq mi) in the Sheopur and Morena districts. It was also known as Kuno-Palpur and Palpur-Kuno Wildlife Sanctuary. It is part of the Kathiawar-Gir dry deciduous forests ecoregion.

Les Landes

Les Landes is an area of coastal heathland in the north-west of Jersey. It has been designated as a Site of Special Interest (SSI) since 1996.The site is the largest of its kind in Jersey at 160 ha.

List of birds of North America (Accipitriformes)

The birds listed below all belong to the biological order Accipitriformes, and are native to North America.

Marsh harrier

The marsh harriers are birds of prey of the harrier subfamily. They are medium-sized raptors and the largest and broadest-winged harriers. Most of them are associated with marshland and dense reedbeds. They are found almost worldwide, excluding only the Americas (except for New York).

Until recently two species were generally recognized: the marsh harrier (Circus aeruginosus) and the African marsh harrier (C. ranivorus). The marsh harrier is now usually split into several species, sometimes as many as six. These are the western marsh harrier (C. aeruginosus), eastern marsh harrier (C. spilonotus), Papuan harrier (C. spilonotus spilothorax or C. spilothorax), swamp harrier (C. approximans), Réunion harrier (C. maillardi maillardi or C. maillardi) and Madagascar marsh harrier (C. maillardi macrosceles or C. macrosceles).

At the beginning of the 20th century, the marsh harrier was hunted to extinction in the United Kingdom. After being reintroduced from other regions, its population steadily increased until DDT threatened it, along with other raptors, in the 50's and 60's. Since, the population has slowly and steadily increased.

Narew National Park

Narew National Park (Polish: Narwiański Park Narodowy) is a National Park in Podlaskie Voivodeship, north-eastern Poland, created in 1996.

The park is a 35 kilometres (22 mi) section of the Narew River. It is a swampy valley with moraine hills typical of a braided river. Depending on the season and the level of the water table, several riparian area ecosystems are available including swamps, tussocks with surrounding black alder (Latin: Alnus glutinosa) and white willow (Latin: Salix alba) forested areas. The total area of the Park is 73.5 square kilometres (28.4 sq mi), of which only 20.57 square kilometres (7.94 sq mi) is state-owned, the balance being privately held.

The park covers the Upper Narew Valley, a swampy area between the towns of Suraz and Rzedziany. Around 90% of Park’s area are either swamps or waters with the Narew as the main river, which splits in the area into many river beds, but also numerous smaller rivers, such as Liza, Szeroka Struga, Awissa, Kurówka, Kowalówka, Turośnianka and Czaplinianka.

The Park’s landscape is predominantly made up by many varieties of marshes, reed beds, and there are also meadows and forests. The Narew Valley is a haven for birds - there are 179 species of them, including those unique for the area. Mammals are represented by around 40 species, among them some elk and otter as well as numerous beavers - around 260 of them. The Park’s waters are full of fish - 22 species - as well as amphibians. The Park is a wetland site protected under the Ramsar convention.

Cultural attractions of the Park are mostly represented by buildings such as numerous traditional village huts, ancient crosses by the roads and windmills. One of the Park’s attractions is a private archaeological museum, owned by Władysław Litwinczuk. The Park also includes an antique manor house at Kurowo.

The Park has its headquarters in the village of Kurowo. Its buffer zone includes a less strictly protected area called Narew Landscape Park.


Paradisbakkerne ("hills of paradise"), also Helvedesbakkerne ("hills of hell"), is a group of hills in Denmark, located in the east of the island of Bornholm. It is situated approximately 3 kilometres (1.9 mi) northwest of Nexø. The privately owned area consists of hilly, rocky landscapes with narrow rift valleys lined by almost vertical cliffs, making it popular for nature walks. Typically, the hills rise to a height of 30–50 metres (98–164 ft) above the surroundings in a forested area which also has a number of small lakes and marshes. Midterpilt, 113 metres (371 ft) above sea level, is one of the highest points. Although much of the area is now wooded, it was once covered with heather and low shrubs, making it suitable for grazing. Paradisbakkerne has a long cultural history, attested by numerous place names with their own legends and stories. These include Slingestenen, Linkisten, Ligstenen, Dybedal, Ravnedal, Majdal, and Gamle Dam.

Parížske močiare

Parížske močiare is a national nature reserve in the Slovak municipality of Nová Vieska in the Nové Zámky District. The nature reserve covers an area of 184 ha in the Danubian Lowland. It has a protection level of 4 under the slovak nature protection system. The protected area is one of the most valuable and last original localities of waterfowl in the Slovak republic.


Vanhankaupunginselkä (also called Vanhankaupunginlahti, Swedish: Gammelstadsfjärden) is a bay area which together with parts of adjoining Viikki district constitute a natural conservation zone near downtown Helsinki in the southern part of Finland. The area is listed in Ramsar Convention on Wetlands of International Importance, is part of European Union's Natura 2000 program and is also listed as BirdLife International's Important Bird Area.

Geographically the area lies east of Helsinki peninsula and is surrounded by the districts of Hermanni, Arabianranta, Viikki, Herttoniemi and Kulosaari. The Vantaa River ends at the north end of Vanhankaupunginselkä.

Although the area appears to be either land or water on various maps or satellite pictures, it is largely marsh-like, impassable either on foot or on boat. Most parts of the area are covered with man high reeds, which will prevent use of boats, while the subsoil beneath the reeds is soft and muddy, thus preventing passage on foot.

However, for the purposes of walking between the reeds the City of Helsinki has constructed some duckboards, which permit the visitors on the area to walk between the reeds. While these duckboards permit the visitors to walk between the reeds, the duckboards are just two to four planks wide, which require the visitors to apply appropriate caution in general and while passing other visitors. During times of higher water, the duckboards can be submerged in whole or in part, while in winter, the boards can be warped or destroyed by ice.

As for the bird species in the area, 285 different species have been observed on the area. Out of these species, 114 have nested on the area during last 10 years.[1]

When the species of area are considered, certain species rare in Finland nest at the area. Examples of these are western marsh harrier, Eurasian bittern, white-backed woodpecker, red-backed shrike, ortolan bunting and black woodpecker. [2]

As for other species, various predators like hawks and owls are frequently observed on the area.

The rules applicable to visitors of Vanhankaupunginselkä are fairly strict. As per the instructions printed on the signs all over the area, visitors on the area are not permitted to move between the reeds while the area is unfrozen, collect or damage the foliage or distribute animals in general. In addition, fishing is not permitted at the area, nor is walking unleashed dogs or horse riding. Furthermore, as Vanhankaupunginselkä is frequently visited by persons interested in nature, informal social control is strict. Littering, loud behavioural and comparable activities are typically strongly condemned.

The visitors can commute to the area either by cars, trams or buses. The trams number 6 and 8 have stops less than a kilometre from the area and various locations near the area offer ample parking space.

Värnanäs archipelago

Värnanäs archipelago (Swedish: Värnanäs skärgård) is a nature reserve and Natura 2000 designated area situated in south-eastern Sweden, in Kalmar County.The nature reserve consists of an archipelago of small, flat islands and skerries in shallow water, with large reed beds in the transitory zone between islands and open water. Several of the larger islands are forested, dominated by oak, pine and birch, while the smaller islands have a more diverse flora including areas of open land.The archipelago is considered to be one of the most important breeding areas for harbour seal in the Baltic Sea, where the species is under threat. At most, 150 seals have been recorded in the nature reserve, contributing about 50% of the total amount of reproduction of the species in the Kalmarsund area.The nature reserve also displays a rich bird-life. Osprey, white-tailed eagle and western marsh harrier are birds of prey regularly seen in the archipelago. Other recurring birds include common shelduck, velvet scoter, tufted duck and red-backed shrike.Large parts of the area are restricted access areas during most of the spring, summer and early autumn.


This page is based on a Wikipedia article written by authors (here).
Text is available under the CC BY-SA 3.0 license; additional terms may apply.
Images, videos and audio are available under their respective licenses.