Pallid Harrier

Pallid Harrier, Circus macrourus


English: Pallid Harrier
Scientific: Circus macrourus
German: Steppenweihe
Spanish: Aguilucho Papialbo
French: Busard pâle

Taxonomy and Subspecies

Mixed pairs with the Montagu’s Harrier are known [Mebs and Schmidt 2006, GRIN 2010].
No subspecies [GRIN 2010].


Length: 43-48 cm
Wingspan: 105-120 cm
Weight: Males 235-416 g, Females 402-550g.

Maximum Age

12 years in the wild. [Mebs & Schmidt 2006]


Like other harrier species, the Pallid Harrier is a raptor of open country. It is found in steppes and grasslands but also in semideserts, marshes and even agricultural areas [GRIN 2010].


Eastern species. In Europe, the Pallid Harrier regularly only breeds in Ukraine and southern Russia. Sporadically breeds in Bulgaria, Moldova and Rumania [Mebs & Schmidt 2006]. Has nested in Sweden and Germany [GRIN 2010]. Small population in Turkey. Probably extirpated from Moldova and Belarus [BirdLife 2009].
From eastern Europa the Pallid Harrier can be found eastwards to Mongolia and China and south to Iran.


Migratory. Pallid Harriers spend the in Africa south of the Sahara and also in southern Asia like Iran, India and Myanmar. The species is nomadic in its the winter range [GRIN 2010], following food supply (like locusts).
Leaves the breeding grounds from the end of August on. Pallid Harriers don’t concentrate on certain points with narrow crossings over the eastern Mediterranean but migrate on a broader front.
During return migration in spring, the Pallid Harrier regularly can be seen a little further west like southern Italy (Strait of Messina) [Mebs & Schmidt 2006].

Breeding and Reproduction

At least males already capable of breeding in their 2nd calender year [Mebs & Schmidt 2006]. The female lays 3-6 eggs which are incubated for about 30 days. Only the female breeds [Mebs & Schmidt 2006]. Later, only the female will feed the chicks while the male provides the food. When the chicks are older, the female will join the mail for hunting.
The young fledge after 35 – 48 days and stay with their parents for another 3 weeks [Mebs & Schmidt 2006].

Food and hunting

Feeds on small rodents like voles, mice or susliks [GRIN 2010]. Bird prey probably more important than formerly thought when rodents are scarce. Important bird prey are young larks, pippits, wheaters and wagtails [Mebs & Schmidt 2006]. During winter, locuts can be an important food source.
Hunts like a typical harrier from a low flight above open country. Has been observed to hunt high small birds higher above the ground [Mebs & Schmidt 2006].


[BirdLife 2015] gives a world population of between 9,000 and 15,000 pairs.
Overall the population numbers are poorly known. More research is needed here.


The most endangered of the European harriers. The world population is only small with an estimated 10,000 – 20,000 pairs. In Europe only 300 – 1,100 remain, mostly in Russia [Mebs & Schmidt 2010]. The small population makes the species vulnerable.
The Pallid Harrier was once more widespread but the conversion of steppe grasslands into arable agriculture has reduced the available habitat for the species.
The Pallid Harrier is also negatively affected by pesticides, including those used to kill locusts in their wintering quarters.


The remaining steppe habitat used by the Pallid Harrier must be protected and should not be converted for agricultural use [Mebs & Schmidt 2006].
The use of pesticides in the breeding and wintering range should be reduced significantly . This would also help many other bird species.

Status IUCN/BirdLife

Near Threatened (NT)

Status Global Raptor Information Network



[BirdLife 2004] BirdLife International. 2004. Birds in Europe: population estimates, trends and conservation status. BirdLife Interntional. Cambridge, UK. (Pallid Harrier species account available at:[BirdLife 2015] BirdLife International. 2015. Species factsheet: Circus macrourus. Downloaded from on 18/7/2015

[GRIN 2010] Global Raptor Information Network. 2009. Species account: Pallid Harrier Circus macrourus. Downloaded from on 23 Mai 2010

[Mebs & Schmidt 2006] Mebs, Theodor & Schmidt, Daniel (2006). Die Greifvögel Europas, Nordafrikas und Vorderasiens. Kosmos Verlag.


Forsman, Dick (1999). The Raptors of Europe and the Middle East A Handbook of Field Identification. PoyserMebs, Theodor & Schmidt, Daniel (2006). Die Greifvögel Europas, Nordafrikas und Vorderasiens. Kosmos Verlag.

Scott, Don (2008). Harriers – Journeys around the world. Tiercel Publishing. Wheathampstead

Simmons, Rob (2000). Harriers of the World. Oxford University Press. Oxford.


BirdLife Species Factsheet for the Pallid Harrier

GRIN species account for the Pallid Harrier