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Madagascar Marsh Harrier
Circus macrosceles

Status: Endangered

Population Trend: Declining.

Other Names: Madagascar Harrier, Malagasy Harrier, Madagascar Marsh-harrier, Malagasy Marsh Harrier, Malagasy Marsh-harrier.

Circus macrosceles
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Distribution: Afrotropical. MADAGASCAR and COMORO ISLANDS. more....

Subspecies: Monotypic. more....

Taxonomy: Formerly merged with C. macrosceles and even C. aeruginosus (Sibley and Monroe 1990), but treated as a separate species by Bretagnolle et al. (2000) and Simmons (2000), based on differences in morphology and plumage, and by Wink and Sauer-Gürth (2000), based on nucleotide sequences of the mitochondrial cytochrome b gene. Wink and Sauer-Gürth (2004) confirmed that C. aeruginosus, C. ranivorus, C. spilonotus, C. approximans, C. maillardi, and this species form a monophyletic group, based on cytochrome b evidence. The common name, Malagasy Harrier, follows the recommendation of Gill and Wright (2006), to reflect the fact that the range of this species is not restricted to the island of Madagascar. more....

Movements: Irruptive or local migrant, with juveniles dispersing from breeding areas (Bildstein 2006). Mostly sedentary, but likely moves locally in search of wet habitats. It may vacate breeding areas in the central highlands during the rainy season (I. Randriamanga pers. comm. to Thorstrom et al. 2003), but such movements need further confirmation.

Habitat and Habits: Most common in marshy and wet areas of all kinds, including rice paddies, shady plantations, and mangroves, but may forage in adjacent drier habitats, including degraded savannas. It occurs in dry habitats on the Comoros, where there are no marshes. Benson (1960) usually found it in open areas, including grasslands and cultivation, on four of the Comoro Islands, although it was seen over evergreen forest on Moheli. It usually occurs singly, or in pairs. This species spends long periods resting on perches, sometimes on the ground (Langrand 1990). more....

Food and Feeding Behavior: Feeds on small vertebrates, mainly birds (especially the Madagascar Partridge, Margaroperdix madagascariensis), but also on rodents, turtles, frogs, and reptiles (Randriamanga 2000). One struck at a duck (Anas punctata) that had been shot, and another attempted to capture a half-grown chicken in a village (Rand 1936). Like other harriers, it forages by coursing low over vegetation and capturing prey by descending rapidly to the ground. more....

Breeding: The nest is a platform of green plant matter placed on the ground in low vegetation or on the ground, often in marshes. Clutch size is 3-5 white eggs (Langrand 1990). more....

Conservation: Local and now rare in Madagascar. On the Comoros, where it was first reported by Benson (1960), it is most common on Anjouan and Mohei, very rare on Grand Comore, and rare or extinct on Mayotte (Safford 2001). The reasons for the higher density of this species on two of the Comoros islands, both of which lack marshes and have high human populations, than in Madagascar, where there is much more potential habitat and lower human densities, are not clear. René de Roland et al. (2009) reported that there are three major threats to this harrier in Madagascar, including the conversion of marshes into rice fields, uncontrolled fires in savannas and grasslands, and collection of young from nests for human consumption. The most important single conservation action to save this species is the preservation of suitable habitat, particularly through suppression of grassland fires. BirdLife International presently classifies the Malagasy Harrier as Vulnerable, but Peregrine Fund biologists working in Madagascar regard it as Endnagered or even Critically Endangered. more....

Population Estimates: René de Roland et al. (2009) conducted a 16-month country-wide survey for this species in 2005 and early 2006, sampling 68% of the districts of Madagascar which contain 71% of the potential harrier habitat throughout the country. They confirmed a total of only 80 individuals, including 48 males and 32 females, of which 71 were observed during the breeding season (from June to December) and nine outside the breeding season (January to May). Based on their results and information from the Comoro Islands, they estimated that the global population is probably between 250-500 individuals. According to René de Roland et al. (op cit.), Michel Louette, Roger Safford, and Peter Morris have estimated the Cormoro Islands population variously from 50-250 individuals, and the population on Madagascar is thought to be no larger. more....

Important References: 
Ferguson-Lees, J., and D.A. Christie. 2001. Raptors of the world. Houghton
  Mifflin, Boston, MA.
Kemp, A.C. 1994. Madagascar Marsh-harrier. P. 138 in del Hoyo, J., A.
  Elliott, and J. Sargatal (eds). Handbook of birds of the world. Vol. 2. New
  World vultures to guineafowl. Lynx Edicions, Barcelona, Spain.
Langrand, O. 1990. Guide to the birds of Madagascar. Yale University
  Press, New Haven, CT.
René de Roland, L.-A., J. Rabearivony, and I. Randriamanga. Nest biology
  and diet of the Madagascar Harrier (Circus macrosceles) in Ambohitantely
  Special Reserve, Madagascar. Journal of Raptor Research 38:256-262.
Rene de Roland, L.-A., R. Thorstrom, G. Razafimanjato, M.P.H.
  Rakotondratsima, T.R.A. Andriamalala, and T.S. Sam.
2009. Surveys,
  distribution and current status of the Madagascar Harrier Circus macrosceles
  in Madagascar. Bird Conservation International 19:309-322.
Simmons, R. 2000. Harriers of the world: their behaviour and ecology.
  Oxford University Press, Oxford, UK.
Thorstrom, R., and L.-A. René de Roland. 2000. Status and conservation of
  raptors on the Masoala Peninsula, Madagascar. Pp. 35-41 in R.D. Chancellor
  and B.-U. Meyburg (eds.), Raptors at risk. World Working Group on Birds of
  Prey, Berlin and Hancock House, Blaine, WA.
Thorstrom, R., L.-A. Rene de Roland, and R.T. Watson. 2003. Falconiformes
  and Strigiformes: ecology and status of raptors. Pp. 1080-1085 in S.M.
  Goodman, and J.P. Benstead (eds.), The natural history of Madagascar.
  University of Chicago Press, Chicago, IL.
Wink, M., and H. Sauer-Gürth. 2000. Advances in molecular systematics of
  African raptors. Pp. 135-147 in R.D. Chancellor and B.-U. Meyburg (eds.),
  Raptors at risk. World Working Group on Birds of Prey, Berlin, and Hancock
  House, Surrey, British Columbia, Canada.
Wink, M., and H. Sauer-Gürth. 2004. Phylogenetic relationships in diurnal
  raptors based on nucleotide sequences of mitochondrial and nuclear marker
  genes. Pp. 483-498 in R.D. Chancellor and B.-U. Meyburg (eds.), Raptors
  worldwide. World Working Group on Birds of Prey, Berlin, and MME/BirdLife
  Hungary, Budapest.

Rene de Roland, Lily-Arison
Thorstrom, Russell

Last modified: 3/9/2017

Recommended Citation: Global Raptor Information Network. 2021. Species account: Madagascar Marsh Harrier Circus macrosceles. Downloaded from http://www.globalraptors.org on 28 Nov. 2021

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