Montagu’s Harrier

Scientific name: Circus pygargus

Did you know: Montagu’s Harrier, named after the British naturalist George Montagu, is a master of aerial agility, known for its graceful and buoyant flight.

What Do Montagu’s Harriers Look Like? (how to identify them)

Montagu’s Harrier is a slim, medium-sized raptor, characterised by long wings and a lengthy tail. Smaller than a Buzzard, it has more pointed wings compared to the similar Hen Harrier. 

Adult males exhibit a distinctive grey top with black wingtips and a black stripe across the inner wing. Females, however, are predominantly dark brown.

Differences Between Male And Female Montagu’s Harriers

Males and females of Montagu’s Harrier show notable differences. Males are grey on top with black wingtips and inner wing stripes, while females are darker, mostly brown with pale yellow-brown underparts and longitudinal stripes on the belly. 

Juveniles resemble females but have uniformly red-brown bellies and underwing coverts.

What Do Montagu’s Harriers Eat?

Their diet mainly comprises voles, shrews, small birds, lizards, rabbits, and insects. They adapt their diet according to availability, with variations observed across their geographical range. In northern regions, they primarily prey on ground squirrels and rabbits, while in southern Europe, they focus on small reptiles and large insects.

Where Do Montagu’s Harriers Live? (inc. migration info)

Montagu’s Harriers are summer visitors to the UK, migrating to Africa for the winter. They breed in open areas with tall ground vegetation, such as farmland, wetland, and grassland. In the UK, their breeding habitats have shifted from marshes to arable farmland. With less than five breeding pairs in the UK, they are extremely rare and require special protection.

Bird Calls & Songs (the unique voices of Montagu’s Harriers)

Montagu’s Harriers are relatively silent outside the breeding season. Their calls, usually heard during courtship or as alarm calls, are a series of short, sharp, and high-pitched notes. The males may also use calls to communicate with females during food transfers.

Fun Montagu’s Harrier Facts (kid friendly)

  • Montagu’s Harriers are named after the British naturalist George Montagu.
  • They are known for their elegant and buoyant flight, resembling that of a tern.
  • These birds migrate thousands of miles between their breeding and wintering grounds.
  • Females are larger than males, a common trait among birds of prey.
  • They can perform aerial food passes, where the male drops food in mid-air for the female to catch.
  • Montagu’s Harriers can nest in small colonies for better defence against predators.
  • These birds are experts in hunting over open land, thanks to their sharp vision.
  • The species is known for its adaptability, nesting in varying habitats from wetlands to farmlands.
  • They play an important role in controlling rodent populations in their habitats.
  • In the UK, they are one of the rarest breeding birds of prey.

Montagu’s Harrier Images

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Male
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Female
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Hatchling
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Nestling
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Chick
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Fledgling
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Juvenile

Facts About The Montagu’s Harrier

Diet: Small birds, voles, shrews, rabbits, lizards and insects.
Bird Family: Kites, hawks and eagles
Length: 43-47cm
Wingspan: 100-120 cm
Weight: 225-450 g
Scientific Name: Circus pygargus

The Montagu’s Harrier Can Be Seen In The UK During The Following Months

  • April
  • May
  • June
  • July
  • August
  • September