Pallid Harrier - Steppekiekendief

Pallid Harrier


Circus macrourus

Pictures: Teus Luijendijk


May 2001, Wassenaar ZH

September 2001, Vlieland Fr


May 2001, Wassenaar ZH

"Why not an oh-so-easy adult male?", many birders thought with this bird. 'Ringtails' Circus are always difficult and this bird was (or still is) no exception. Females and immatures of Hen, Montagu's and Pallid Harrier can be very similar and may give rise to long identification debates. The bird depicted below, however, shows several good features for a Pallid Harrier:

  • an obviously darker inner wing (more so towards the body), formed by the dark secondaries,
  • greater underwing coverts that become darker towards their tops,
  • rather pale primary undersides, without obvious darker tops,
  • absence of a broad subterminal dark band across the inner primaries that continues through the secondaries,
  • absence of dark barring on the axillaries.

    These characters are often of use to discern Pallid from Montagu's Harriers. However, another pitfall may be Hen Harrier. This species can be excluded by the obvious head markings as shown in some of the pictures, as well as by the more agile flight.

    The bird's central tail feathers were unmarked (and actually slightly longer), whereas the others were coarsely banded with dark. This suggests the bird to be a second-calender year male.

    The videograbs shown were taken from a long distance in quite unfavourable weather conditions (strong wind and not too good light), so the quality is not very good.

      Pallid Harrier  -  Steppekiekendief  Circus macrourus   probably 2nd calender year male, videograbs (320x).  Wassenaar
      ZH, The Netherlands, 17 May 2001.


    September 2001, Vlieland Fr

    A first-year bird turned up in the autumn of 2001, a period in which many Pallid Harriers were seen in N Europe. Fortunately, we didn't lag behind! This beautiful juvenile bird turned up on the isle of Vlieland and could be observed at close range. Observe how it is looking around at passing Redwings Turdus iliacus, turning its head in the most awkward positions to get good views.

      Pallid Harrier  -  Steppekiekendief  Circus macrourus   first-winter;  videograbs (320x). Vlieland Fr, The Netherlands,
      29 September 2001.


    Copyright ©Teus Luijendijk 2001