Juvenile Montagu´s Harrier

Following the interesting post on a summering Pallid Harrier (Circus macrourus) on the Netherlands by Nils, I thought sharing these photos of a quite Pallid-like juvenile Montagu´s Harrier (Circus pygargus) could be of interest.

Montagu´s Harrier (Circus pygargus). Juvenile. Zaragoza, September 2012. Photographer: A. Manuel Galán Subias

The bird was seen near Zaragoza, Aragón, Eastern Spain, in mid September, and had been ringed and wing-tagged in France this past summer.

As you can see on the pics, the head pattern of this juvenile was quite striking and well marked. If not seen well, It could resemble that of a Pallid Harrier to the inexperienced observer.

The prominent pale neck collar was almost complete, the hind neck was very dark and contrasted a lot with the pale collar, the white areas around the eye were relatively small and the lores were quite dark. Thus, quite Pallid-like if seen distantly.

Montagu´s Harrier (Circus pygargus). Juvenile. Zaragoza, September 2012. Photographer: A. Manuel Galán Subias

However, on closer inspection, you can see that the pale collar has some faint dark smudges (which could easily go unnoticed if not seen close, though), the dark hindneck is not uniform, but shows some paler spots mixed in with the dark feathers and the dark cheek-patch only reaches the gape. All these features would identify the bird as a well-marked juvenile Montagu´s, but would require good views.

Montagu´s Harrier (Circus pygargus). Juvenile, Zaragoza, September 2012. Photographer: A. Manuel Galán Subias

Furthermore, the primary pattern is also typical of Montagu´s. Unlike most Pallids, the bird shows almost all dark fingers and obvious dark tips to the inner primaries. Beware of the last feature though, as some Pallids can also show contrasting dark tips to the inner primaries, like Montagu´s.

Montagu´s Harrier (Circus pygargus). Juvenile, Zaragoza, September 2012. Photographer: A. Manuel Galán Subias

The barring of the primaries, although relatively extensive,  is finer than that of a typical juvenile Pallid.

Several fine streaks are present on the upper breast and flanks, which should be absent on juvenile Pallids in autumn.

All in all, an interesting bird that addresses the need of good views and a proper study of the primaries, amongst other things, when confronted with any pale-collared juvenile Harrier.

Many thanks to the photographer, A. Manuel Galán Subias, for letting me use his photos on the post, and also to Javier Train for first sending them to me.

3 thoughts on “Juvenile Montagu´s Harrier

    1. danielopezvelasco

      Hi Manuel
      Yes, that´s because when the photographer first saw it, he thought it was a Pallid Harrier and that´s why he labelled the photos as Pallid…
      This shows how this bird could fool us if not seen well
      Dani

      Reply
      1. Manuel Mondejar

        We saw a similar bird ,last week,In Barcelona,In the Llobregat river nature Area..This is why this article was so interesting to me,because i was debating over the actual taxonomy of the bird that we saw..It was VERY similar to the one depicted here,..I am not an expert in these species,and for me still hard to recognize the actual traits that difference these species,even when clearly pointed at them ,as in this case…What is interesting is that this bird has a wing tag…Who tagged the bird,and what type of information does this type of tag gives ,?
        thanks again for all the info
        un saludo
        Manuel

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