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Eastern Marsh Harrier - BirdForum Opus

Alternative name: Spotted Marsh Harrier

Photo by the late Laurence Poh
December 2003
Circus spilonotus


It is 48 to 58 cm long with a wingspan of 113 to 137 cm. Like most birds of prey, the female is usually larger than the male.
The male's plumage is variable; typically the head, breast, back and wing-coverts are blackish with pale streaks. The rest of the wing is grey with black wingtips and a white front edge. The tail is grey, the rump is white and the underparts are mostly white.

The female is dark brown with buff streaking on the head and underparts. The rump is often whitish and the tail has dark bars.

Young birds are dark brown with buff on the head and a pale patch on the underwing.


Photo by scottishdude
Shenyang, China, June 2008

Eastern Asia. Breeds in eastern Siberia to the Pacific coast and Sakhalin, in north-east India, throughout China and in Hokkaido and Honshu in Japan. Also breeds in the Philippines, and Indonesia. Resident in southern China but a summer visitor to north of breeding range wintering from southern China, Taiwan and Hainan south to Indonesia.


This is a monotypic species[1].

Papuan Harrier was recently split from Eastern Marsh Harrier.

Juvenile male
Photo by Romy Ocon
Malasi Lake, Isabela Province, Philippines, January 2007


Plains, paddyfields and swamps.



While hunting it flies low over the ground with the wings held in a shallow V-shape.


Its prey includes small mammals, birds and frogs.


The breeding season begins in April. The nest is made of sticks and built on the ground, usually in a reedbed. Four to seven eggs are laid which are incubated for 33 to 48 days. The young birds fledge after 35 to 40 days.


  1. Clements, J. F., T. S. Schulenberg, M. J. Iliff, S. M. Billerman, T. A. Fredericks, B. L. Sullivan, and C. L. Wood. 2019. The eBird/Clements Checklist of Birds of the World: v2019. Downloaded from http://www.birds.cornell.edu/clementschecklist/download/

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