Montagu's Harrier (Circus pygargus)

Montagu's Harriers are large, 18" (46cm) birds with males and females appearances being quite different.
The male has mostly grey upperparts. The neck and breast are also grey, with the rest of the underparts being white, with rufous streaks on the flanks. He has black wing-tips and a thin black wing-bar. Below the wing he is white, with rufous streaks on the linings, black primary feathers and two black bands on the secondary feathers.
The female is dark brown streaked with off-white, with an off-white face, contrasting with dark brown ear-coverts. They have off-white bellies, streaked with brown and a white rump.
This long-winged bird is very similar to the Pallid Harrier. Montagu's male has the narrow black bars across the secondary feathers and more black in the wing-tips. Females have broad black bands on the undersides of the secondaries, with black trailing edges.

Montagu's Harriers are usually solitary birds, but sometimes gather to roost in the evening. They do not breed in Kenya, but nests of sticks and grass are made in tall vegetation, laying an average of 4 white eggs, incubated by the female for up to 40 days. The chicks fledge after a further 40 days, but are dependent on the adults for 14 days afterwards for food. Most food is caught by the male, sometimes spectacularly passing it to the female in mid-air. They become sexually mature at 2 years of age and typically are monogamous (have only one partner), although some males are suspected of polygyny (having two partners).

Montagu's Harriers fly low over open grassland in typical Harrier fashion, twisting wings and tail to navigate towards prey. They also hover over prey, before swooping down gracefully. They eat rodents, small birds, birds eggs and reptiles - occasionally snakes. Insects (mosty Crickets, Locust and Grasshoppers) are also taken.

Montagu's Harriers are long-distance paleartic migrants from Europe and Asia, visiting Kenya between October and April. Generally seen in the west half of Kenya in open grassland between 1,500 - 2,500 metres. Most common in Laikipia, Rift Valley and Mara regions.

Extra Montagu's Harrier Facts
Montagu's Harriers were named after Colonel George Montagu (1753 - 1815), a British naturalist who also served as an English Army officer, fighting in the American Revolution. Montague developed tetanus after treading on a rusty nail and died.

Photographed in Kenya's Olare Orok Conservancy, bordering Masai Mara.

Categories & Keywords
Subcategory Detail:
Keywords:bird, harrier, kenya, montagu's harrier, wildlife

Montagu's Harrier ~ Male Perched

Male Montagu's Harrier, perched on a dead Acacia, showing all the colours of his body.

Montagu's Harrier ~ Flying

A male Montagu's Harrier, flying slowly over a conservancy in Kenya, looking for prey.

Montagu's Harrier ~ Hovering

Male Montagu's Harrier, hovering over prey in a conservancy in Kenya.

Montagu's Harrier ~ Eating

Male Montagu's Harrier, eating a small rodent on grasslands in a Kenya conservancy.

Montagu's Harrier ~ Portrait

Portrait of Montagu's Harrier male, standing on open grassland in Kenya.