Western Marsh-harrier/Circus aeruginosus

Western Marsh-harrier/Circus aeruginosus - Photographer: Георги Петров
Western Marsh-harrier/Circus aeruginosus - Photographer: Frank Schulkes
Western Marsh-harrier/Circus aeruginosus - Photographer: Frank Schulkes
Western Marsh-harrier/Circus aeruginosus - Photographer: Frank Schulkes

L 43-55 cm, WS 115-140 cm. Breeds on shallow freshwater lakes or rivers. Except in south and west migratory, wintering in Africa. Small population in E Britain. Food small mammals, birds, insects. Nests in tall reedbed.
IDENTIFICATION: Largest harrier, somewhat bigger than Common Buzzard but with slimmer body, narrower wings and longer tail. Soars with wings raised in shallow V, glides with ‘arm’ raised and ‘hand’ more level. At distance possible to confuse with Black Kite and dark-morph Booted Eagle, but has less ‘fingered’ wing-tips, rounded tail and different head-on profile. - Adult male: Distinctly set-off black wing-tips, uniformly pale blue-grey tail, head and breast pale yellowish-white, upperwing three- or four-coloured. Some are very pale, at distance recalling a Hen Harrier, but have chestnut belly and chestnut on upperwing-coverts. - Adult female: Dark brown with creamy-white crown, throat and forewing (variable amount). Often pale patch on breast. male-like pale birds distinguished by lack of well-marked black wing-tips and by brown tail. - Juvenile: Blackish-brown with golden crown and throat, sometimes also forewing; a rare morph is all dark. Differs from adult female in narrow golden line along greater upperwing-coverts, very dark underwing-coverts, darker tail, narrower ‘hand’ and more bulging ‘arm’.
VOICE: female has thin, piping whistle, ‘psee-ee’, repeated a few times, when receiving food from male. Alarm a rapid ‘quek-ek-ek-ek-ek’. In breeding season during aerial display, has whining, nasal ‘way-e’, repeated twice with 2-sec. pause, in tone recalling Lapwing alarm.

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