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Bird of Prey  Marsh Harriers

Marsh Harrier - Photo  Copyright 2006 Dean Eades
Photo: Dean Eades


Latin name: Circus aeruginosus

Size: Length around 50 - 55cm. Wingspan up to 140cm.

Distribution: Found in many areas of the UK. Breeds mainly in parts of eastern England, the Cambridgeshire Fens, Yorkshire, Lancashire, Kent and many parts of Scotland.

Months seen: All year round. Some Marsh Harriers migrate to southern Europe and Africa.

Habitat: Wetlands, reed beds, fens, marshes and nearby fields.

Food: Birds and small mammals.

Special features: The Marsh Harrier is slightly bigger than a buzzard, but with slimmer body and wings. In the air the black wing tips are very distinctive. The female is chocolate brown with a cream coloured head throat and shoulders. The  male has a greyish head and tail. The back of the wings are grey in the middle and brown at the shoulders. 

Click for a better viewIn springtime Marsh Harriers perform an elaborate aerial courtship display. The male does a dramatic inverted flight to pass food to the female.

Persecution and drainage of the fens from the 1700's onwards caused a rapid decline in the Marsh Harrier population. By the 1800's they were almost extinct in the UK.

The use of pesticides in the 1950's added to their problems. The poisoned prey they ate caused their egg shells to become extremely fragile, and by 1971 there was just one pair of Marsh Hariers remaining at Minsmere RSPB reserve.

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UK Safari Birds of Prey Section
UK Safari Birds Section

  2006 G. Bradley. All Rights Reserved