Marsh Harrier (European Marsh Harrier)
Distribution Britain 114 (339%) Ireland 7 (600%)
Numbers breeding: Britain 131 RBBP Ireland 0
European status: 29,000 (0% in Britain and Ireland)
British population trend: prospects excellent
How likely are you to record it? 20 squares (0.2%) Ranked 136=
Young birdwatchers may find it amazing that this species was extinct in Britain in 1900, recovered to 15 in 1958 but was down to one breeding pair at Minsmere in 1971. The birds were badly affected by pesticides and other pollutants throughout Europe. Over the last 30 years the increase has been spectacular almost 20% a year possibly over 200 by now. The stronghold is still in the bigger reed beds in East Anglia but now many pairs use smaller ones and arable crops. Breeding is now common round the Wash and in the Fens with regular widespread records in other areas including Wales. They are now breeding for the first time in Scotland and are back in Ireland after about 150 years. Many are migrants, wintering in Africa, and seem to wander widely and may settle to breed far from their natal areas. Prospects good could become a familiar bird in farmland as well as wetland areas.
Underhill-Day, J. 1998 British Birds: 91, 210-218.
The following Bird On! picture is available:
Marsh Harrier (Watercolour by Robert Gillmor)
The following Bird On! sketch is available:
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From The State of the Nations Birds
Copyright © 2000 by Chris Mead