Belongs to: birds of prey

Compare with: hen harrier

Marsh harrier Circus aeruginosus

Birds of Conservation Concern Amber List


Best time to see: all year

Key facts

Large long-winged harrier, often seen over the reedbeds of East Anglia

Breeds on coastal grazing marsh with dense vegetation such as reeds, wintering in tropical Africa

Summer visitor to Essex since the late 1980s and more recently started to breed

Recognition

Male, brown above with pale buff head, grey wings with black tips; female dark brown with golden-yellow head; 52 cm

Perches openly, flies low over reedbeds and marshes in search of food; flies with wings in a V-shaped profile

Eats birds, carrion, eggs and small mammals

Lifecycle

Spectacular soaring courtship flight by the male, with a somersaulting descent; also feeds the female while incubating

Nest is a platform of twigs and reeds often in a large reedbed; one brood of 4-5 blue-white eggs, April to May

  • Main photo

Photo © Alan Williams