Marsh Harrier

Species profile

Name: marsh harriers are a group of birds in the wider harrier family. While there is some debate, there are six broadly recognised species: the western marsh harriereastern marsh harrierPapuan harrier, swamp harrier, Réunion harrier, and Madagascar marsh harrier.

Appearance: marsh harriers can be distinguished by their long wings which they hold in a shallow ‘V’ shape as they fly low to the ground looking for prey. Males and females have distinct plumages which are predominantly made up of brown and white feathers.

Size: they are one of the largest and broadest-winged harriers, with wingspans reaching up to 1.3 metres and weighing up to 0.8 kg. Swamp harriers are the largest marsh harrier species reaching 1.5 metres and 1.1 kg in weight, and the largest of all the harriers.

Diet: they hunt by gliding low over flat, open ground looking for small mammals, birds, insects, reptiles, and frogs.

Did you know: the western marsh harrier declined in many areas between the 19th and 20th centuries due to persecution, habitat destruction, and pesticide use. It is now a protected species in many countries. In the UK, the population was thought to be extinct by the end of the 19th century. However, a single pair in Norfolk bred in 1911, and by 2006 an estimated 265 females were recorded rearing 450 young. Today, the threats to this amazing bird have largely been averted and it is classified as a species of Least Concern by the IUCN. 

Location: they can be found in marshes and reedbeds the world over except for the Americas.

Where to see Marsh harriers

According to reports submitted to WildSide, you can see marsh harriers in the following places:

Place Chance to see User rating No. reports
Dee Estuary
Isle of Sheppey

Photo credit: konniselonke under a Creative Commons licence from Pixabay

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