Eastern marsh harrier

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The eastern marsh harrier (Circus spilonotus) belongs to the family Accipitridae. These eastern marsh harrier species are distributed in Northeast Asia, Indian Subcontinent and Southeast Asia.

Taxonomy of Eastern marsh harrier

  • Scientific Name: Circus spilonotus
  • Common Name: Eastern marsh harrier
  • French: Busard d’Orient German: Mangroveweihe Spanish: Aguilucho lagunero oriental;
  • Other names: Circus spilonotus Kaup, 1847;
  • Family: Accipitridae › Accipitriformes › Aves › Chordata › Animalia
  • Species author: Kaup, 1847
Circus spilonotus is closely related to C. aeruginosus and C. spilothorax. Circus spilonotus and C. spilothorax were previously lumped as C. spilonotus.

Indian birds - Image of Eastern marsh harrier - Circus spilonotus
Indian birds - Image of Eastern marsh harrier - Circus spilonotus


The eastern marsh harrier is a medium sized bird, measuring 45 to 55 cm in length and weighing 350 to 800 grams. The wingspan is 110 to 140 cm. The female harrier is slightly larger than the male. The male has blackish head, breast, back and wing-coverts with pale streaks. the rump is white and the belly is mostly white. The female is dark brown. Their call is a mewing sound.


These harrier species inhabit open country and dense marsh vegetation, including marshland, paddy fields, wetlands and grasslands.

Feeding habits

These harrier species hunt by flying close to ground. They prey on small mammals, birds, frogs and reptiles.


The eastern marsh harrier nests on ground and reed beds. Nest is built with sticks and reeds. The breeding season is from April to June.


The eastern marsh harrier is distributed in northeast China, Mongolia, south-east Siberia and northern Japan. They winter in southern China, Taiwan, Korea, southern Japan, north-east India, Bangladesh and Southeast Asia, Philippines and Indonesia.

Movement Patterns

The eastern marsh harrier are mostly migratory except for sedentary Papuan harrier. The northern harriers move southwards for wintering.

Status and conservation

The eastern marsh harrier global population size has not been quantified, but with an extremely large range, they are considered not vulnerable. Habitat loss and human activities are the main threats to their survival.

The IUCN (International Union for Conservation of Nature) has categorized and evaluated these harrier species and has listed them as of "Least Concern".

Biological classification of Circus spilonotus
Species:C. spilonotus
Binomial name:Circus spilonotus
Distribution:Indian Subcontinent, Southeast Asia, Central and Eastern Asia;
Feeding habits:lizards, small mammals, frogs and birds;
IUCN status listing:
Least Concern

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