Marsh Harrier

Harrier long-tailed, long-winged birds of prey with short beaks and soft plumage of the genus Circus, family Accipitridae, order Ciconiiformes. There are about 13 species of harriers worldwide; Bangladesh has 5, but all are migratory.

Harriers belong to a uniform group having long tail feathers and elongated wings, with face feathers arranged into a disc. These predators, with wings somewhat angled up, characteristically fly low over open spaces, particularly marshes, and drop on insects, and small amphibians, reptiles, birds, and mammals.

Cosmopolitan in distribution, the 13 species do not overlap geographically except in Australia, where two species occur. Some are polygynous and one male will pair with up to six females. When not breeding, some species are quite gregarious and roost communally on the ground.

The nest is usually on the ground in marshes, or in tall grass. The best known, the Hen-Harrier ranges across Europe and Asia. Harriers of Bangladesh (Aves, Ciconiiformes: Accipitridae) (all migratory). NB Previous names are given in square brackets.

Circus aeruginosus, Eurasian Marsh Harrier [Marsh Harrier]: Largest of all the harriers, with broader and more rounded wings. Male: dark brown  with pale rufous head, neck and breast, dark rufous below. Wings and tail are silvery grey. Female: dark chocolate- brown with creamy cap on head and buff at edge of wing at shoulder.

Circus macrourus, Pallid Harrier [Pale Harrier]: Male- pale ashy grey raptor with black tips to its long, narrow pointed wings, especially conspicuous in flight. Long white tail cross-barred with grey. Female: brown with buff-coloured, owl-like round head; usually hovers over crop-fields and grassland.

Circus cyaneus, Hen-Harrier: Male- looks like Pale Harrier but darker ashy grey above. Female- dark brown above, brown-streaked below.

Circus melanoleucos, Pied Harrier: Male- a slim, long-winged pied raptor of contrasting black-and-white plumage. It has more white than black; wings are white with black tips. Female: dark brown above with whitish rump; rufous below.

Circus pygargus, Montagu’s Harrier: Male- looks similar to Pale Harrier but darker grey tinged with brown. Grey throat and breast below are white with chestnut stripes. A narrow black transverse wing bar is diagnostic. Female: looks very similar to female Pale Harrier.

[Md Anwarul Islam]

See also bird.