Pallid Harrier

Pallid Harrier- Male

Pallid Harrier    Circus macrourus


  • Circus: Greek word kirkos –partly mythical hawk, named for its circling flight (kirkos –circle)
  • Macrourus : Greek word makros – long;   ouros -tailed

Vernacular names:  Hindi: Pila Girgitmar Ben: Math cheel, Cachar: Daoling wahlai, Guj: Ujali pattayi/pattai, Ta: Poonai parundu, Te: Tella chappa gadda, Pilli gadda, Sinh: Kurrulu goya, Ukassa, Mar: Pandhurka Bhovtya, Pun: Bagg kirla mar

Distribution in India:  Widespread winter visitor in India.

Description:  Size of 40-48 cm. The male is very pale; only four primaries black. The female is brown above with white upper tail coverts ,has paler belly, underparts are buff streaked with brown ,contrasting with more heavily marked breast and head, and more defined facial pattern. Juvenile has rusty underbody and underwing-coverts, but generally paler, with narrow whitish collar.

Habitat:  It is found in breeding season in natural grassy plains and dry steppes in flat or undulating terrain or on slopes, valleys with steppe vegetation and semi-desert, occasionally in agricultural areas, preferring wet grassland near small rivers or lakes or marshland for nesting; generally up to 2000 m.In the non-breeding season it is also found in un-irrigated wheat fields or sandy islands. During migration and in winter quarters roosts communally, normally in grass, but also in open; groups of up to several hundred together, sometimes along with Hen harrier and Montagu’s Harrier.

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 Eastern Europe and central Asia in May-June. It is a colony breeder and makes a nest that is usually close together. The nest is made of pile of grass, placed on ground, protected by vegetation. It lays a clutch of 2-6 eggs. The incubation is done by female for a period of 29-30 days. The fledging period is 35-40 days. The chicks stay with adults for a further 2–3 weeks.