Graceful but deadly…this female Marsh Harrier caused consternation amongst the water birds at Padul on our recent visit, and although these shots are far from perfect it’s great to have this elegant, reedbed specialist on the list for the new month!
The size of a Buzzard, the Marsh Harrier Circus aeruginosus is the largest of the European harriers, with rather long, broad wings and a long tail – note the proportions in the shot shown above. As the name implies it has a close association with marshland and especially reedbeds, but can occur over a wide range of flat, open country: in recent years, maybe as a response to habitat loss, it has in some areas colonized flat pastures and arable fields.
This species has a year-long presence over much of Spain and Portugal but breeding birds from the north and eastern Europe are long-distance migrants, wintering in the south with many reaching Africa. Like other Harriers the sexes show markedly different plumages. The male has distinct, “tri-colour” wings, light brown with large grey patches and black wing tips, while the dark, chocolate-brown female is larger, with a pale, straw coloured head and leading edges on the wing: just about identifiable in the shot shown above.
They hunt low over their territories, dropping suddenly out of the air to take small birds, wildfowl, small mammals and even frogs. Even when soaring higher up, the wings are often held up in a characteristic “V” shape, and the view captured in the third of today’s shots is typical.
Regular readers of our posts will know how much we love our raptors, and it’s wonderful to have yet another species for you today. We’ll be returning to Padul on a regular basis so please keep checking the posts, and if you’d like more information on our birdwatching trips and holidays, all the details are just a click away…