Western marsh harrier

   ›      ›   Western marsh harrier - Circus aeruginosus.

The western marsh harrier (Circus aeruginosus) belongs to the family Accipitridae. These western marsh harrier species are distributed in Asia, Indian Subcontinent, Europe, Africa and Southeast Asia.

Taxonomy of Western marsh harrier

  • Scientific Name: Circus aeruginosus
  • Common Name: Western marsh harrier
  • French: Busard des roseaux German: Rohrweihe Spanish: Aguilucho lagunero occidental;
  • Other names: Falco aeruginosus Linnaeus, 1758; Eurasian marsh harrier; Northern marsh harrier;
  • Family: Accipitridae › Accipitriformes › Aves › Chordata › Animalia
  • Species author: (Linnaeus, 1758)
Circus aeruginosus is closely related to C. spilonotus and C. spilothorax. The recognized two subspecies are: C. a. aeruginosus (Linnaeus, 1758) and C. a. harterti Zedlitz, 1914.

Indian birds - Image of Western marsh harrier - Circus aeruginosus
Indian birds - Image of Western marsh harrier - Circus aeruginosus


The western marsh harrier is a medium sized bird, measuring 40 to 55 cm in length and weighing 400 to 700 grams. The female birds are slightly larger and weigh 550 to 950 grams. The wingspan is 115 to 145 cm. The male plumage is mostly a reddish-brown with prominent lighter yellowish streaks on breast. The head and shoulders are mostly pale greyish-yellowish. The legs, feet, irides and the cere are yellow. The bill is black. The female is entirely brown. The male harrier makes a display call of shrill whistling sound.


The western marsh harrier inhabits freshwater and brackish wetlands and nearby grasslands and farmlands.

Feeding habits

These harrier species feed on small mammals, birds, reptiles, frogs and insects.


The western harrier breeding season is from mid-March to May. A male bird may pair with two or three females in a season. The ground nest is built with sticks, reeds and grass in dense vegetation.


The western marsh harrier subspecies C. a. aeruginosus is distributed in Europe, Parts of Africa, Asia, Indian Subcontinent and Southeast Asia. The subspecies C. a. harterti is distributed in Northwest Africa, including Morocco, Algeria and Tunisia.

Movement Patterns

The harrier subspecies C. a. harterti inhabiting Morocco, Algeria and Tunisia is sedentary. The rest of the populations in Europe and Asia are migratory. Migration towards wintering grounds starts in September and October. The return to breeding grounds is in March and April. The wintering birds migrate to milder regions of Europe, Middle East, Indian Subcontinent, Myanmar and Malaysia.

Status and conservation

The western marsh harrier species has an extremely large range and is considered least vulnerable. The global population is estimated to be 500,000 to 2,000,000 individual birds. The loss of wetland habitat, agricultural expansion and use of pesticides are the threats to the survival of these species.

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 aeruginosus
Species:C. aeruginosus
Binomial name:Circus aeruginosus
Distribution:Indian Subcontinent, Southeast Asia, Asia, Europe and Africa;
Feeding habits:reptiles, small mammals, frogs and birds;
IUCN status listing:
Least Concern

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Image source: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/File:Western_Marsh_Harrier-_Bangalore,_India.jpg
Image Author: Subramanya CK | Image License: CC BY-SA 3.0
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