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Pallid Harrier - BirdForum Opus

Adult male
Photo © by Jugal Tiwari
Kutch, Gujarat, India, January 2009
Circus macrourus


Adult male
Photo © by Lior Kislev
Beyt Shean Valley, Israel, 10 October 2007

40-48 cm (15¾-19 in)

  • Very pale blue-grey above
  • Greyish-white head and upper breast
  • White underparts
  • Off-white, indistinct rump
  • Small, black wedge at primaries

Brown above, small white V-shaped rump. Underparts streaked with brown. Most often a noticeable pale collar separating the streaked neck (dark boa) from the unstreaked head.
In flight: Usually shows four free fingers

Similar Species

Montagu's Harrier lacks the dark boa behind the pale neck ring, and this ring appears to often be broken. Hen Harrier: the male of the latter can during molt show a black wedge on the wing that is similar to the wing of male Pallid Harrier. Look also at the Marsh Harriers.


Adult female
Photo © by Kuznica K Goworek
Poland, 29 April 2009

Eurasia and Africa.
Breeds in eastern Romania, the Ukraine and southern Russia eastwards to western Sinkiang. A summer visitor to breeding range and occurs as a passage migrant throughout south-east Europe, the Middle East and North Africa.

Good numbers are seen on passage at Borka in Turkey in September-October but the return movement is more westerly and a few are regularly seen at Cap Bon. More than 100 have been recorded crossing the Straits of Messina, Sicily in spring.

Small numbers winter in Greece, Iraq, Egypt and North Tunisia but most western birds cross the Sahara to winter from Senegal east to Ethiopia and south to the Cape. Eastern birds winter in Pakistan, India and Sri Lanka, south-east Asia and southern China.

The Pallid Harrier is an irruptive species frequently appearing and sometimes even nesting far out of the normal range. Breeding has occurred in Finland and Sweden, Germany and in several Central European countries.

There is also a record of a mixed Pallid-Hen Harrier pair nesting in Scotland but otherwise this is a very rare vagrant to Britain with about 14 records. These have been widely spread from Shetland to Cornwall but nearly half have been in the Northern Isles. A juvenile wintered in Norfolk in the winter of 2002/3. Elsewhere vagrants have been recorded west to Spain and the Canary Islands.


This is a monotypic species[1].


During the breeding season they utiise dry steppes, grasslands and cornfields.


Immature Male
Photo © by AbdulRahman Al-Sirhan Alenezi
Kuwait, 16 September 2007


They fly slowly low over moors and fields and ambush their prey of small mammals, lizards and birds. They feed on large insects during the winter.


A ground nester laying 4-6 whitish eggs.


Pallid Harrier sound clip


  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/
  2. Peterson, RT, G Mountfort and PAD Hollom. 1993. Collins Field Guide – Birds of Britain and Europe, 5th Revised edition. London: HarperCollins Publishers. ISBN 978-0002199001
  3. Grant, P.J., K. Mullarney, L. Svensson, D. Zetterstrom (1999) Collins Bird Guide: The Most Complete Field Guide to the Birds of Britain and Europe. Harpercollins Pub Ltd ISBN 0 00 219728 6
  4. Orta, J., Christie, D.A. & Kirwan, G.M. (2019). Pallid Harrier (Circus macrourus). In: del Hoyo, J., Elliott, A., Sargatal, J., Christie, D.A. & de Juana, E. (eds.). Handbook of the Birds of the World Alive. Lynx Edicions, Barcelona. (retrieved from https://www.hbw.com/node/53031 on 16 August 2019).
  5. Global Raptor Information Network. 2019. Species account: Pallid Harrier Circus macrourus. Downloaded from http://www.globalraptors.org on 15 Aug. 2019

Recommended Citation

External Links

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