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© Copyright: Images: Jari Peltomäki. Recording: Jan-Erik Bruun. All rights reserved.

Montagu's Harrier

Circus pygargus

  • Family: Hawks – Accipitridae
  • Appearance: A slender harrier, like the Pallid Harrier, but with slightly wider wings and shorter wingtips. Flight almost tern-like. Male very pale; female brown.
  • Size: Length 39–50 cm (15–19.5 in), wingspan 96–116 cm (37.5–45 in), weight 230–445 g (9–18 oz). Female larger.
  • Nest: Made of straw and grass, on the ground.
  • Breeding: 4–5 eggs incubated by female for 27–30 days. Young able to fly in 35 days.
  • Distribution: In Finland only breeds very rarely in the south, in overgrown wetlands. Breeding population estimated at 1–10 pairs. Non-breeding birds also seen on migration.
  • Migration: Winters in Africa, migrating Aug–Sept and returning in May.
  • Diet: Birds, voles, lizards, frogs and insects.
  • Calls: Calls during courtship flight resemble calls of Jackdaw. Warning calls resemble those of Hen Harrier, but more rapid.
  • Endangerment: Critically endangered, protected in Finland. Globally Least concern.

Montagu’s Harriers have very long, narrow wings, with shortened fifth primary feathers. Their tails are also long and narrow. They look lightly built and lanky. Flight light, and almost tern-like. Mature males resemble Hen Harriers in colouring, except that they have long black streaks along their wing secondaries (one above and two below), and more black on their wingtips. Their underparts have poorly visible brown streaks.

Mature females also resemble other harriers. They are best distinguished from female Hen Harriers by their overall shape. The distinct dark streaks on their secondary wing feathers and dark streaking across their underwings distinguish them from Pallid Harriers. Also the lighter colouring beneath the markings on their wing coverts does not darken towards their bodies.

Juvenile Montagu’s Harriers are darker than mature females, and their underparts are an almost uniform reddish brown. (Juvenile Hen Harriers are browner with more markings.) Young Montagu’s Harriers are best distinguished from juvenile Pallid Harriers by the absence of any unstreaked pale yellowish or darker brown markings on their necks.

Other species from the same genus
Other species from the same family

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