090 (Western) Marsh Harrier
(Circus aeruginosus)


43-55cm. Largest harrier, somewhat bigger than Common Buzzard but with slimmer body, narrower wings and longer tail. Soars with wings raised in shallow V, glides with ‘arm’ raised and ‘hand’ more level. At distance possible to confuse with Black Kite and dark-morph Booted Eagle, but has less ‘fingered’ wing-tips, rounded tail and different head-on profile. Adult male: Distinctly set-off black wing-tips, uniformly pale blue-grey tail, head and breast pale yellowish-white, upperwing three- or four-coloured. Some are very pale, at distance recalling a Hen Harrier, but have chestnut belly and chestnut on upperwing-coverts. Adult female: Dark brown with creamy-white crown, throat and forewing (variable amount). Often pale patch on breast. Male-like pale birds distinguished by lack of well-marked black wing-tips and by brown tail.


In Hungary the Western Marsh Harrier is a fairly common breeder with a rapidly increasing population in marshy meadows and fishponds with reedbeds and reed-mace stands, as well as in agricultural areas and along large canals at low and medium elevations. Migrant. Arrives in mid-March in spring and usually leaves in October in autumn. Overwintering individuals are regularly seen.

090 (Western) Marsh Harrier pic

© Graphics by Szabolcs Kókay

Source: 1) Lovászi Péter (editor): Javasolt különleges madárvédelmi területek Magyarországon, Magyar Madártani és Természetvédelmi Egyesület, 2002; 2) BirdLife International:IUCN Red List for birds. Species factsheet; 3) Králl Attila, Nagy Károly: Fontos Madárélőhelyek Magyarországon (Területek, kritériumok és minősítő fajok) MME Monitoring Központ, 2007; 4) Szabolcs Kókay bird illustrations; 5) www.hungarianbirdwatching.com bird descriptions and checklists, 2004-2012; 6) Lars Svensson et al.: Collins Bird Guide: The Most Complete Guide to the Birds of Britain and Europe 2nd Edition, Harper Collins, 2010; 7) MME Nomenclator Bizottság: Nomenclator avium Hungariae. An annotated list of the birds of Hungary. Magyar Madártani és Természetvédelmi Egyesület, 2008