Identification of Montagu's Harrier

The Birder's Market | Resource | Birds of Britain and Europe ID Guide | Birds of Prey | Montagu's Harrier Circus pygargus |  Identification of Montagu's Harrier

General characteristics of harriers

General characteristics of harriers

The four harriers are generally associated with reedbeds, large cereal crop fields such as corn or wheat and mature heather moorland.All four species glide and soar with wings held in a shallow upward 'V' shape, and this characteristic coupled with long wings and tail (notice the long tails in all of these illustrations) seperates them from all other similar sized raptors.Possible confusion similar sized raptors are the buzzards, but they are much more compact with broad wings showing a much shorter and 'fan' spread tail in flight.
Male birds are fairly easy to identify with a good view and diagnostic points are given for each species in their relevant pages. Female and immature Hen, Montagu's and Pallid harriers are far more difficult and are often refered to as 'ringtails'.


43 - 47 CM which includes long tail (16 - 18 CM). WS 98-110cm. Often described as having a 'scruffy' or 'dirty' appearance. Is distinctly smaller and slimmer in both body and wings when compared with Hen Harrier.Adult male easily seperated from Hen harrier by one black wing bar above and two below ( 1 -2 - Montagu ! ) and faint rust-coloured streaking on belly and underwing-coverts.

A long-winged and elegant raptor which glides solemly over heaths and meadowland.Long pointed wings are held raised above the horizontal,often with a kink near body seen head on in gliding flight.Male has one black wingbar above and two below This description taken from Birds of Europe with North Africa and the Middle East.Available by clicking here Further reading below
Flight identification of harriersFlight identification of harriers
showing four harrier species in flight silhouette
click here for larger image

We highly recommend the following titles....
Raptors of the World  A Field Guide Raptors of the World A Field Guide
Raptors of the World is the definitive handbook to this most popular group of birds. This field guide uses all of the plates from Raptors of the World, with a concise, revised text on facing pages, to create a conveniently-sized, lightweight field reference covering all 320 raptor species. The book also has an updated colour distribution map for each species. Much of the extensive introductory material has been retained in this guide, with the addition of a complete species list containing all subspecies and brief details of their ranges. Armed with this guide, birders will be able to identify with confidence any raptor encountered anywhere in the world.
Harriers of the World
" ... the book is remarkably compact, written in an engaging and easily accessible style, and features many beautiful line drawings by the authors twin brother, John ... We recommend that everyone with even a passing interest in how and why birds do what they do, as well as all those who take study of behaviour, ecology and evolution more seriously, should add this volume to their bookshelves." Africa Birds and Birding
"...a book that is full of ideas and insight."IBIS

Harriers are a world-wide group of birds of prey whose mating systems, population dynamics, and evolution are well-studied. This is the first book to synthesise and analyse the masses of data on the behavioural ecology of harriers. It offers an intriguing comparison of breeding systems among harriers in the northern and southern hemispheres, and includes a new phylogeny of the harriers, based on the most recent DNA findings. It is illustrated throughout with original line drawings of these impressive birds.

Readership: Serious amateur as well as professional ornithologists; researchers and students of ecology and behavioural ecology

Harriers of the World
Montagu's HarrierMontagu's Harrier
Surely no birder can resist this wonderful raptor. For those who delve into it's ecology, a whole host of fascinating questions and answers arise. An immense body of research and history lies behind the bird. Roger Clarke makes this accessible to all.

'A Man who is passionate about his subject and who's combination of enthusiasm and scientific details echoes writings of an earlier era, such as the New Naturalist monographs...deserves a place on the bookshelves of any birdlover...BBC Wildlife Magazine.
Recommended further reading;Raptors: A Field Guide to Survey and MonitoringRecommended further reading;Raptors: A Field Guide to Survey and Monitoring
At a time when many raptors in Britain and Ireland are recovering from low population in the mid to late 20th Century (or earlier), there is a growing demand for high quality information on numbers, distribution, and population trends of these birds. This publication, 'Raptors: A Field Guide to Survey and Monitoring', written by experienced professionals, is aimed at people who watch, survey or monitor raptors. It provides detailed descriptions of survey methods for all species of raptor (Accipitriformes, Falconiformes, and Strigiformes), which regularly occur in the United Kingdom.

This publication, including a CD-ROM containing raptor calls, sets out to promote best practice for the survey and monitoring of raptors. It is hoped that it will provide a starting point for anyone wanting to begin a raptor study, and indeed to encourage a new generation of raptor ecologists.

Written and edited by members of the Scottish Raptor Monitoring Group, this book draws on the knowledge and experience of over 300 raptor specialists. 'Raptors: A Field Guide to Survey and Monitoring' has been funded by Scottish Natural Heritage, with assistance from the other Statutory Conservation Agencies in Britain and Ireland, as well as non-government bodies concerned with birds of prey.

Click here for ordering details.....
Harriers Journeys Around the World
Until recently harriers were one of the least known group of birds but after an in-depth study of the Hen Harrier in Northern Ireland, Don Scott succeeded in his passion to observe and study all 16 of the World's species as well as the single subspecies of harrier. This quest which began over 20 years ago in Don's home country has taken him to six continents. His sometimes dangerous journeys encompassed many exotic locations where harriers had previously received little general interest or scientific attention. The author's dogged persistence in the field enabled him to witness traits of behaviour previously unknown in harriers. It began with the unique discovery of tree-nesting Hen Harriers and culminated with the Papuan Harrier in Papua New Guinea.
Harriers Journeys Around the World
Recommended further reading.Flight Identification of European RaptorsRecommended further reading.Flight Identification of European Raptors
The identification of the diurnal birds of prey is especially difficult. There is a wide variation in plumage among some species, especially the Eagles and Buzzards, and in all species general outlines and wing positions are much affected by wind and light, and by the birds behaviour at the time. Often, too, the birds are only sighted at long range, and the authors believe that when travelling extensively in Europe even the expert cannot hope to identify more than seventy per cent of the raptors seen.

In this book, the 38 European species have been grouped into seven sections. Each section brings together those species with similar field characters between which confusion can so often, and so easily, arise. The text, succinct and detailed as it is, is greatly enhanced by Ian Willis's fine drawings, and there are 248 photographs especially chosen to illustrate aspects of identification.

Click here for ordering details.....

The Birder's Market | Resource | Birds of Britain and Europe ID Guide | Birds of Prey | Montagu's Harrier Circus pygargus |  Identification of Montagu's Harrier

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