Pied harrier

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The pied harrier (Circus melanoleucos) belongs to the family Accipitridae. These pied harrier species are distributed in Asia, Indian Subcontinent, and Southeast Asia.

Taxonomy of Pied harrier

  • Scientific Name: Circus melanoleucos
  • Common Name: Pied harrier
  • French: Busard tchoug; German: Elsterweihe; Spanish: Aguilucho pío;
  • Other names: Falco melanoleucos Pennant, 1769;
  • Family: Accipitridae › Accipitriformes › Aves › Chordata › Animalia
  • Species author: (Pennant, 1769)
Circus melanoleucos was earlier included in the genus Falco.

Indian birds - Image of Pied harrier - Circus melanoleucos
Indian birds - Image of Pied harrier - Circus melanoleucos


The pied harrier is a small bird of prey, measuring 40 to 50 cm in length and weighing 250 to 320 grams. The female harrier is slightly larger and weighs 400 to 450 grams. The wingspan is 110 to 125 cm. The male and female harriers show strong plumage color differences. The male bird is pale grey with black head with mantled back, upper breast and tail coverts. The male makes shrill call with repeated “kiiy-veee” sounds.


These species of birds inhabit open lands, grasslands, steppe, wet meadows and marshes.

Feeding habits

The pied harrier species feed on small mammals like rats and mice, birds, reptiles, frogs and large insects. They often seen flying low over paddy fields and marshes, hunting for their prey.


These bird species breed during the month of May. They build nests on the ground, long grass, reedbeds, rushes or in bushes.


The pied harrier is distributed in north Russia, north-eastern China, North Korea, Indian subcontinent, Myanmar, Indochina, Malaysia, Indonesia and Philippines.

Movement Patterns

The pied harrier is completely migratory, the birds in the northern regions migrating southwards for wintering. These birds breed in the northern Asia and in a few pockets in India and Myanmar. These harrier species winter in Indian subcontinent and Southeast Asia.

Status and conservation

The pied harrier global population is estimated to number around 10,000 individual birds. This species of birds has an extremely large range and considered least vulnerable. The loss of habitat and drying up of marshes and wetlands are the 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 melanoleucos
Species:C. melanoleucos
Binomial name:Circus melanoleucos
Distribution:Asia, Southeast Asia, Indian Subcontinent;
Feeding habits:reptiles, small mammals, frogs and birds;
IUCN status listing:
Least Concern

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Image source: https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Pied_Harrier_(Female).jpg
Image Author: Induchoodan A | Image License: CC BY-SA 4.0
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