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Conservation status: Amber

The Montagu's harrier is a slim, medium-sized, long-winged bird of prey. It has a long tail, is smaller than a buzzard, and has more pointed wings than the similar hen harrier. The male is grey above. In flight, it shows black wingtips and a black stripe across the inner wing. The female is dark brown. It is an extremely rare breeding bird in the UK, and its status is precarious. Each pair needs special protection. It seems increasingly to be nesting on arable farmland rather than on marshes. It is a summer visitor, and migrates to Africa to spend the winter.



Latin name

Circus pygargus


Hawks and eagles (Accipitridae)

Where to see them

Nest sites are kept secret to protect birds from egg collectors and unwitting disturbance. It is possible to see them on passage, particularly on the south and eastern coasts of England.

When to see them

Between May and August.

What they eat

Small birds, voles, shrews, rabbits, lizards and insects.


EuropeUK breeding*UK wintering*UK passage*
-Less than 10 pairs--



Montagu's harrier tracking

Montagu's harriers are the rarest breeding bird of prey in the UK, with just seven pairs in 2014. In late July 2014 experts from the Dutch Montagu’s Harrier Foundation fitted three adult Montagu’s harriers with small, lightweight satellite tags in the UK. More...

Montagu's harrier tracking