Montagu's harrier

   ›      ›   Montagu's harrier - Circus pygargus.

The Montagu's harrier (Circus pygargus) belongs to the family Accipitridae. These Montagu's harrier species are distributed in West Asia, Indian Subcontinent, Europe and Africa.

Taxonomy of Montagu's harrier

  • Scientific Name: Circus pygargus
  • Common Name: Montagu's harrier
  • French: Busard cendrĂ©; German: Wiesenweihe; Spanish: Aguilucho cenizo;
  • Other names: Falco Pygargus Linnaeus, 1758;
  • Family: Accipitridae › Accipitriformes › Aves › Chordata › Animalia
  • Species author: (Linnaeus, 1758)
Circus pygargus was earlier included in the genus Falco.

Indian birds - Image of Montagu's harrier - Circus pygargus
Indian birds - Image of Montagu's harrier - Circus pygargus


The Montagu's harrier is a small bird of prey, measuring 40 to 50 cm in length and weighing 220 to 300 grams. The female harrier is larger than the male and weighs 250 to 450 grams. The wingspan is 100 to 120 cm. The males and females have distinct plumage. The males have pale grey plumage. They have black primaries and black bands across secondaries feathers. In adult female harrier, the plumage is mostly pale yellow-brown on underparts and the belly has longitudinal stripes. The wing coverts are spotted. The male makes a display call of “kek..kek..kek" sound.


The Montagu's harrier inhabits lowlands, broad river valleys, plains bordering waterbodies, heaths, dunes, moors and steppe.

Feeding habits

These harrier species prey on small rodents, small birds, bird eggs, reptiles and large insects.


The Montagu's harrier nests on the ground among tall vegetation. The breeding season is mostly in May-June. They may form loose breeding colonies. The female harrier builds the nest. The nest may contain 3-5 eggs. The male tends to be polygamous and feeds the incubating females and broods.


The Montagu's harrier is distributed in Europe, Mediterranean region, West Russia, Kazakhstan and Northwest China. Winters in Africa (south of Sahara) and Indian subcontinent.

Movement Patterns

The Montagu's harrier is a migratory species and winter in sub-Saharan Africa and Indian subcontinent. They leave the northern breeding grounds in August and September and begin their return in March and April after wintering.

Status and conservation

The Montagu's harrier global population is assumed to be between 150,000 to 200,000 individual birds. These bird species have very large range and are considered least vulnerable. The use of organochlorine pesticides seemed to cause a decline in European population. Locust control and droughts lessen the feed availability. The conversion of its habitat to agricultural land and depletion of prey are the main threats to the survival of these species of birds.

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

Biological classification of Circus pygargus
Species:C. pygargus
Binomial name:Circus pygargus
Distribution: West Asia, Europe, Africa and Indian subcontinent;
Feeding habits:reptiles, small mammals, frogs, large insects and birds;
IUCN status listing:
Least Concern

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