Western (European) Marsh-Harrier | Circus aeruginosus

Robert's Raptor Information: Western (European) Marsh Harrier

The Western Marsh-Harrier is a Southern African bird that belongs to the Accipitridae bird family group which includes birds such as Raptors, Old Vultures, Osprey.

The description for the Western Marsh-Harrier (Latin name Circus aeruginosus) can be found in the 7th Edition of the Roberts Birds of Southern Africa. The Circus aeruginosus can be quickly identified by its unique Roberts identification number of 164 and the detailed description of this bird is on page 500. You will find a picture of the Western Marsh-Harrier on page 528.

NOTE: The reference for the information following is "Roberts Birds of Southern Africa", 7th Edition*. This edition contained a number of taxonomic changes as well as changes to English names used traditionally and in earlier editions of most bird books in South Africa. The following paragraph notes such changes if any.

This bird is known as European Marsh-Harrier in the Roberts 6th Edition. There have been no changes in the Latin name for the Western Marsh-Harrier between the Roberts 6th and Roberts 7th Edition

The Western Marsh-Harrier has a height of 49 cms and weighs around 670 gms. The head is coloured black while the bill is coloured grey. The Circus aeruginosus has a black coloured throat, yellow legs and a black coloured back. The eyes are yellow.

The male Circus aeruginosus has physical features that are slightly different from the female bird.

Take note of the bird's main distinguishing features such as colour, size and leg length relative to the body size of the bird. Colours of a bird's body parts can be helpful. Be aware what may appear brown to one person is described in Roberts Birds using some other word ... for example brown, black. See colours used in Roberts.

Head is black.

Eyes are yellow.

Bill is grey.

Legs are yellow.

Throat is black.

Back is black.

Western (European) Marsh Harrier Feeding Habits ...

This bird forages for food on the ground.

The Circus aeruginosus attacks its prey aerially and feeds on wing or takes the prey to a secluded venue where it is killed, torn into small pieces and eaten.

This bird hunts for small reptiles such as lizards, geckos and bush snakes. The Western Marsh-Harrier strikes poisonous snakes on the head with one fatal blow which kills the snake instantly. There have been cases were this bird has been killed by a snake while hunting. Some birds have been blinded by Cobra venom.

The diet includes small mammals such as rabbits, field mice and other rodents. Rodents are usually taken from the ground and killed using the sharp claws. The Western Marsh-Harrier uses its hard bill to tear up the flesh.

Western (European) Marsh Harrier Breeding, Habitat and Nesting Habits ...

The Western Marsh-Harrier is a monogamous bird which means that the bird finds and breeds with one partner for the rest of its life. The bird lays between 1 to 2 eggs and they are coloured white.

The nest is built high up in the tree canopy and is protected from predators by branches and the dense green foliage.

The Western Marsh-Harrier is mainly found in light and densely wooded forests, where there are Mopane trees.

The bird is found in the African bushveld.

The bird is at home in riverine forests and close to water bodies such as lakes, dams and streams.

This bird is very common in most of the Southern African Forests.

Seen in Flocks, Singles or Pairs Normally ...

The Western Marsh-Harrier is mainly seen singly or in pairs in the wild.

This bird is usually seen in small family groups or in large flocks.