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Montagu's Harrier
Circus pygargus

Status: Lower risk

Population Trend: Stable.

Other Names: 

Circus pygargus
click to enlarge
Distribution: Afrotropical/Indomalayan/Palearctic. Breeds in southern and central EUROPE south to northwestern AFRICA and east through the Caspian lowlands to KAZAKHSTAN and the upper River Yenisey; winters in Africa south of the Sahara and on the Indian subcontinent south to SRI LANKA. more....

Subspecies: Monotypic.

Taxonomy: Known to have hybridized with C. macrourus (Orta 1994), but Wink and Sauer-Gürth (2000, 2004) found that this species is not in the clade consisting of C. cyaneus, C. macrourus and C. maurus, based on an analysis of nucleotide sequences of the mitochondrial gene, cytochrome b.

Movements: Complete, trans-equatorial migrant (Bildstein 2006), with the western European breeding population moving into sub-Saharan Africa for winter in late July and August (Cramp and Simmons 1980), and the eastern European breeding populations wintering in India. Birds return to their breeding areas in March and April. Most European birds cross the central Mediterranean during spring migraiton (Corso 2001, Pannucio et al. 2004). more....

Habitat and Habits: Occurs mainly in open country, including steppe, lightly forested areas, grasslands, marshlands, and agricultural areas in the breeding range. Birds wintering in Africa are found more frequently in grasslands than in wetlands (Ash and Miskell 1998). In migration, these harriers are encountered in small parties. Birds may roost communally in late autumn, occasionally with other harrier species, and roosts in wintering areas may involve hundreds, if not thousands of birds (Clarke 1996). Females and immature birds greatly outnumber adult males in Africa. more....

Food and Feeding Behavior: Feeds on small rodents, birds, snakes, lizards, and large insects. more....

Breeding: Nests on the ground, usually near water, in reed beds or tall grass, and, increasingly, in farmland and other modified habitats. The nest is merely a flattened platform of vegetation, usually grass, reeds, or rushes. In England, nests may often be close together, and four were once found only 50-60 m apart in Cornwall (Clarke 1996). more....

Conservation: Widespread and generally common, despite its patchy distribution in some regions, but probably declining globally. In Europe, which constitutes less than 50% of its global breeding range, with most of the population occurring in Russia, there was a large increase from 1970-1990. This trend continued during 1990-2000, with declines in a few countries more than compensated by stable or increasing trends across the majority of its European range; it is evaluated as "Secure" in Europe (BirdLife International 2004). Like several other harriers, this species suffers mostly from the conversion of natural habitats to agriculture and the subsequent low rate of breeding success (Orta 1994). Categorized as a species of "Least Concern" by BirdLife International. more....

Population Estimates: The European population was estimated at 30,000 to 45,000 breeding pairs (BirdLife International/European Bird Census Council 2000) and later at 35,000 to 65,000 breeding pairs (BirdLife International 2004). more....

Important References: 
Arroyo, B.E., J.T. García, and V. Bretagnolle. 2004. Circus pygargus
  Montagu's Harrier. BWP Update 6(1-2):39-53.
BirdLife International/European Bird Census Council. 2000. European bird
  populations: estimates and trends. BirdLife Conservation Series no. 10.
  BirdLife International,Cambridge, UK.
Clarke, R. 1996. Montagu's Harrier. Arlequin Press, Chelmsford, UK.
Cramp, S., and K.E.L. Simmons. 1980. Handbook of the birds of Europe, the
  Middle East and North Africa: the birds of the western Palearctic. Vol. 2.
  Oxford University Press, Oxford, UK.
Ferguson-Lees, J., and D.A. Christie. 2001. Raptors of the world. Houghton
  Mifflin, Boston, MA.
Orta, J. 1994. Montagu's Harrier. Pp. 140-141 in del Hoyo, J., A. Elliott,
  and J. Sargatal (eds). Handbook of birds of the world. Vol. 2. New World
  vultures to guineafowl. Lynx Edicions, Barcelona, Spain.
Simmons, R.E. 1997. Montagu's Harrier. P. 239 in J.A. Harrison et al.
  (eds.), The atlas of South African birds. Volume 1: Non-passerines. BirdLife
  South Africa and Avian Demography Unit, Johannesburg, South Africa.
Simmons, R. 2000. Harriers of the world: their behaviour and ecology.
  Oxford University Press, Oxford, UK.

Current Research: Biologists from Natural Research Ltd., in association with the North Kazakhstan Field Station near the Naurzum Natural Reserve, north-central Kazakhstan, are undertaking a study of the behavioral ecology and population dynamics of Montagu's Harriers in natural habitats in Kazakhstan, which should yield intersting comparisons to the well-studied western European populations breeding in agricultural areas.

Sites of Interest:
Dutch Montagu's Harrier Foundation
Contains a wealth of information on this species and not just on the population in the Netherlands.
Montagu's Harrier photos.
Species account, with an emphasis on European populations.
Details of the project, "Migration and breeding ecology of Montagu's Harriers," initiated in 2006 to satellite track harriers captured in Spain.

Agostini, Nicolantonio
Amar, Arjun
Camina, Alvaro
Deshmukh, Ajit
Panuccio, Michele
Schröpfer, Libor
Scott, Don
Tapia, Luis
Vansteelant, Wouter
Villers, Alexandre

Last modified: 11/16/2010

Recommended Citation: Global Raptor Information Network. 2020. Species account: Montagu's Harrier Circus pygargus. Downloaded from http://www.globalraptors.org on 25 Sep. 2020

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