Montagu’s Harrier

Montagu’s Harrier   Circus pygargus


  • Circus: Greek word kirkos –partly mythical hawk, named for its circling flight (kirkos –circle)
  • Pygargus: Latin word puge– rump; argos –white, shining { Shinning rump}

Vernacular Names:  Hindi: Dastmal, Girgit mar, Pattai, Ben: Math cheel, Cachar: Daoling wahlai, Ta: Poonai parundu, Te: Tella chappa gadda, Pilli gadda, Sinh: Kurrulu goya, Ukassa, Pun: Dharidar kirla mar, Guj: Patti pattayi/pattai, Mar: Montegu cha Harin

Distribution in India:  Widespread winter visitor in India.

Description:  Size of 43-47 cm. The male has black primaries and black bands across secondaries narrow white rump. The female is larger than male, slightly paler above. In melanistic morph, the male is largely blackish, female chocolate-coloured with grey base to undersides of primaries.  The juvenile is darker above than female, with rufous under body and underwing coverts; unstreaked below. The Irides cere and feet of adults yellow, bill blackish-grey; irides of juveniles dark grey in male, brown in female.

HabitatIt is found in steeper terrain, grasslands, meadows, fields of cereal grains, fallow fields, heath, moor, scrubland, marshes and reedbeds, bogs, peat land and young conifer plantations. It is found from 1500 m up to 4000 m.

Food Habits: It eats small mammals and birds and, especially in winter quarters, large insects. It feeds on rodents, voles, mice, gerbils, steppe lemmings and ground-squirrels. The birds, particularly small terrestrial passerines e.g. larks and pipits, and also partridge chicks, can be of greater importance in diet. Insects eaten include grasshoppers, locusts, beetles, crickets and dragonflies. Reptiles like Lizards and frogs are also eaten. It flies low above ground, into wind, dropping on to small prey spotted on ground; spends large part of day in hunting. It captures insects fleeing from grass fires.

Breeding Habits: They breed in southern parts of Spain and Morocco in May-June. They nest on ground, in tall, dense vegetation. The nest is small, narrow platform, made of grass stems or thin twigs. They lay a clutch of 3-5 eggs. The incubation is done by female for a period of 28-29 days. The fledging period is 30-40 days. The chicks stay with adults for a further 2–3 weeks.