Saturday, 6 June 2015

Montagu's Harrier (Circus pygargus)

Latin Etymology: Circus ("named for circling flight") pygargus ("white rump")
Adult male Montagu's Harrier (Circus pygargus) on farmland near Madrid, Spain - June 2015

Local Name (Spain): Aguilucho cenizo ("Ashen Harrier")
Weight: 230-440g
Length: 43-47cm
Wingspan: 105-120cm
UK AMBER LIST / IUCN Red List: Least Concern

  Named after the naturalist George Montagu, this is the smallest of the three main harrier species found in the UK, but more notable perhaps is it's rarity.  If you were to look for all the native raptors of the UK within the UK, the Montagu's Harrier would top the list for the most difficult to connect with - only a handful of pairs nest here each year, and due to it's rarity (and thus desirability for egg collectors) all those sites are kept secret from the public.  This means that unless you are in the know, you would have to catch one of the handful of birds on migration - not an easy task.  I chose an easier option, looking for them in Spain where the climate and habitat is much more suitable for this bird, and so they are much more numerous.  On the tour with Luis Sitges, several were spotted throughout the morning, quartering the fields fairly prominently, though always at a fair distance.

Related Species:
Order: Accipitriformes
Family: Accipitridae
Genus: Circus
Subspecies: None - monotypic

 - Sighting Locations -
SPAIN - Fairly common Summer migrant.
 - MADRID 2015 TRIP: Several seen on farmland near Madrid
 - MADRID 2016 TRIP: Several seen from a moving vehicle in both Extremadura and Castille-La-Mancha

Further Notes: ArkiveBirdForum Opus, IUCN Red ListRSPB, Wikipedia, Xeno-canto

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