A bird of prey which nests over much of temperate Asia and patchily in Europe. It is a migrant Southwards to the tropics for winter. There are resident races in Australia and New Zealand. It used to nest on many drained marshes in lowland Britain and now beginning to use corn fields.
The young birds are dark chocolate with pale heads and shoulder flashes, males have a lot of grey on them but are still basically dark brown birds when at rest - the grey shows in flight. It hunts by quartering open areas (often marshes) at a height of about five metres and then dropping on anything suitable - mostly small mammals and birds. Can take many nestlings from, for example, colonies of Black-headed Gulls. Spectacular behaviour of passing food from male to female in flight a high point of harrier watching. Population estimate in Britain just under 100 nests but males may have two or three females.
The harrier of wetlands.
The following Bird On! picture is available:
Marsh Harrier (Watercolour by Robert Gillmor)
Length 520 mm Closed wing 400 mm Weight 650 gms
A Bird On! Sketch by Chris Mead
Copyright © 1996 by Jacobi Jayne & Company and Chris Mead