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The Western Marsh-harrier (Circus aeruginosus) is a large harrier, a bird of prey from temperate and subtropical western Eurasia and adjacent Africa. It is also known as the Eurasian Marsh-harrier.
Formerly, a number of relatives were included in C. aeruginosus, which was then known as "Marsh Harrier". The related taxa are now generally considered to be separate species: the Eastern Marsh-harrier (C. spilonotus) and the possibly distinct Papuan Harrier (C. (s.) spilothorax) of eastern Asia and the Wallacea, the Swamp Harrier (C. approximans) of Australasia and the Madagascar Marsh-harrier (C. maillardi) of the western Indian Ocean islands.
The Western Marsh-harrier is often divided into two subspecies, the widely migratory C. a. aeruginosus which is found across most of its range, and C. a. harterti which is resident all-year in north-west Africa.
The Western Marsh-harrier is 43 to 54 cm in length, and has a wingspan of 115 to 130 cm and a weight of 400 to 650 g in males and 500 to 800 g in females. It is a large, bulky harrier with fairly broad wings, and has a strong and peculiar sexual dichromatism. The male's plumage is mostly a cryptic reddish-brown with lighter yellowish streaks, which are particularly prominent on the breast. The head and shoulders are mostly pale greyish-yellowish. The rectrices and the secondary and tertiary remiges are pure grey, the latter contrasting with the brown forewing and the black primary remiges at the wingtips. The upperside and underside of the wing look similar, though the brown is lighter on the underwing. Whether from the side or below, flying males appear characteristically three-colored brown-grey-black. The legs, feet, irides and the cere of the black bill are yellow.
The female is almost entirely chocolate-brown. The top of the head, the throat and the shoulders have of a conspicuously lighter yellowish colour; this can be clearly delimited and very contrasting, or (particularly in worn plumage) be more washed-out, resembling the male's head colors. But the eye area of the female is always darker, making the light eye stand out, while the male's head is altogether not very contrastingly colored and the female lacks the grey wing-patch and tail. Juveniles are similar to females, but usually have less yellow, particularly on the shoulders.
There is a rare hypermelanic morph with largely dark plumage. It is most often found in the east of the species' range. Juveniles of this morph may look entirely black in flight.
Distribution and ecology
This species has a wide breeding range from Europe and northwestern Africa to Central Asia and the northern parts of the Middle East. It breeds in almost every country of Europe but is absent from mountainous regions and subarctic Scandinavia. It is rare but increasing in Great Britain where it has spread as far as eastern Scotland. In the Middle East there are populations in Turkey, Iraq and Iran, while in Central Asia the range extends eastwards as far as north-west China, Mongolia and the Lake Baikal region of Siberia.
Most populations of the Western Marsh-harrier are migratory or dispersive. Some birds winter in milder regions of southern and western Europe, while others migrate to the Sahel, Nile basin and Great Lakes region in Africa, or to Arabia, the Indian subcontinent and Myanmar. The all-year resident subspecies harterti inhabits Morocco, Algeria and Tunisia.
Like the other marsh-harriers, it is strongly associated with wetland areas, especially those rich in Common Reed (Phragmites australis). It can also be met with in a variety of other open habitats, such as farmland and grassland, particularly where these border marshland. It is a territorial bird in the breeding season, and even in winter it seems less social than other harriers, which often gather in large flocks. But this is probably simply due to habitat preferences, as the marsh-harriers are completely allopatric while several of C. aeruginosus grassland and steppe relatives winter in the same regions and assemble at food sources such as locust outbreaks.
It hunts in typical harrier fashion, gliding low over flat open ground on its search for prey, with its wings held in a shallow V-shape and often with dangling legs.
Food and feeding
It feeds particularly on small mammals such as water voles (Arvicola) and birds such as Acrocephalidae warblers, but also eats insects, squamates, amphibians, fish and carrion.
Once in a female bird two crushed frogs were observed in the Crop in postmortem examination of a shot bird.
The start of the breeding season varies from mid-March to early May. Western Marsh-harrier males often pair with two and occasionally three females. Pair bonds usually last for a single breeding season, but some pairs remain together for several years.
The ground nest is made of sticks, reeds and grasses. It is usually built in a reedbed, but the species will also nest in arable fields. There are between three and eight eggs in a normal clutch. The eggs are oval in shape and white in colour, with a bluish or greenish tinge when recently laid. The eggs are incubated for 31–38 days and the young birds fledge after 35–40 days.
Hotelcalifornia, maaciejka, pierrefonds, Hormon_Manyer, vijeeshbabu, aruntp, CeltickRanger, Miss_Piggy has marked this note useful
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- [2013-07-17 9:12]
Hi Peter,there is something to special in your archive as i can see,a great in-flight capture.Perfect timing and the best details despite the quick mouvement,nice contrast whit the blurred background too.Have a nice evening and thanks,Luciano
Well captured this flying Western Marsh-Harrier.Nice span of wings with nice color.Eye-contac with beautiful turn made it attractive.
Thanks for sharing,
- [2013-07-17 9:42]
Excellent capture of the Circus, very good light and sharpness.
I like very much the span of wings, great détails and texture of colors.
Very good job, TFS.
My best regards.
Ciao Peter. Simply fantastic! Great flying taken good details amazing colours and light.
what a nice photo of this bird. Excellent shot. What a point of view. Perfect eye contact. I like it.
Thanks for sharing,
It is impressive to have capture a bird in flight. The point of view is showing the details and colours of the Western Marsh-harrier in flight. The good luminosity is bringing out the beauty of the colours. Have a nice day.
Simply fantastic, I mean sharpness and exposure. Hats off. Probably I might crop more from the bottom and left - just a personal opinion, though. Congratulations for the nice photo.
Best regards, László
哇 這張俯角的角度 真是百年難得一見
竟然給你抓住永恆 真是恭喜你 這是經典作品
照的清晰 光線飽滿 羽毛的伸展美麗 眼神犀利
- [2013-07-17 23:27]
Fantastic action shot! Excellent timing, sharp and clear details, great colours.Thanks for sharing.Regards Siggi
Excellent inflight capture,taken from a nice PoV,nice sharpness and beautiful perspective,lovely natural BG and colours saturation.
super mooie opname met veel scherpte en super kleuren
Goed moment zo in de bocht op de foto maakt het toch anders
A great in flight capture what a point of view. Perfect eye contact
Thanks for sharing
- [2013-07-19 0:20]
excellent timing nicely presented and framed. i give this image 10/10 because of excellency. tfs.
Impressive flying pose and beautiful photo Peter! Very good POV, excellent composition and wonderful colours.
Simply superb capture with good sharpness and colors
- [2013-07-20 0:11]
Perfect capture of flying Harrier. Nice capture from close
range with excellent details.
WOW ! great on-flight shot of this Western Marsh-harrier
with the frontal POV obtaining his bird of prey
style expressive glance on you, beautiful light, TFS
Ciao Peter, great capture of fantastic in-flight rapax, fine details, perffect focus, splendid sharpness and wonderful colors, very well done, my friend, have a good Sunday, ciao Silvio
- [2013-07-21 14:42]
Hi Peter,this is a good looking shot you have of the bird of prey with clean and natural colour.I would like to it's eyes a bit more close in, as eye detail brings an image more to life-a fine shot just the same and thank you kind sir for sharing it with us all.
- [2013-07-21 17:12]
this a superb shot of the bird in flight. The sharpness of the agile eye is well presented here. The lines of the wings are so well detailed and pretty.
The blurry background gives a good impact.
If I could choose a "best part" in this image, I would go for the intense look in this Harrier's eyes. It is fabulous. A wonderful head on view of this bird of prey. An impressive species of bird. Awesome detail, colour and composition and well informative note.
Thanks for sharing. Best regards.
- [2013-07-24 12:42]
what a wonderful capture, eye contact , great moment caught !
Well composed, excellent sharpness !
Best regards !