Monday 9 April 2012


On 26 March 2012 an adult male Pallid Harrier (Circus macrourus) was seen in La Roca de la Sierra, Badajoz. The lucky observers were Joaquín Mazón and José María Casas. This is the second record for Extremadura. The only previous one, duly accepted by the Spanish Rarities Committee, was an adult male seen by Javier Marchamalo on 4 April 2000 in Fuente de Cantos (Badajoz).

The Pallid Harrier is a typical raptor of Euroasian steppes, breeding from Ukraine to Mongolia and wintering in Subsaharan Africa and southern Asia. Due to its general decline the IUCN now lists it as Near Threatened on a world scale; there are estimated to be between 10,000 and 30,000 breeding pairs.

Up to 2009, 34 records involving 35 individuals (only once were two seen together) had been accepted in Spain, three of them in the Canary Islands. The species has never officially been recorded in Portugal, at least up to 2009. The birds that turn up in Spain are the ones following the western migratory route, wintering in Africa. The nearest wintering area, with a low density is Tunisia and there is a certain spring passage through Italy. Up to 2003 all Spanish records were on passage, mainly adult males (the least difficult to identify) on the eastern side of the country and in the months of April and October. More recently, however, some cases of birds wintering in Spain have been recorded, especially on coastal wetlands.

According to the websites Rare Birds in Spain and Reservoir Birds, there are more sightings than those officially accepted. In 2009 at least eight sightings were published on these websites, but none has been submitted for acceptance. More recently, several Pallid Harriers were recorded in Spain during the 2011-2012 winter. On a pro tem basis, until these sightings are confirmed, we can say that eight birds were seen in November 2011, seven in December 2011 and six in January 2012. At least four different birds may well have wintered in La Janda, Cádiz (an adult male, an adult female and two juveniles); three in the Doñana area (adult female, second winter bird and juvenile); and two in Albufera de Valencia (adult male and juvenile). There are also records from Granada, Seville, Girona and Palencia. In all this might add up to 10 wintering birds. We should therefore keep an eye open for them in Extremadura. To increase our chances of identifying them we should gen up on the subtle plumage details that distinguish it from the similar Hen Harrier (Circus cyaneus) and Montagu's Harrier (Circus pygargus).

- CR-SEO (Comité de Rarezas de SEO). 2011. Observaciones de aves raras en España, 2009. Ardeola 58:441-480.
- De Juana, E. 2006. Aves raras de España. Lynx Edicions. Barcelona.
- Catry, P., Costa, H., Elias, G. y Matias, R. 2010. Aves de Portugal. Ornitologia do território continental. Assírio & Alvim. Lisboa.
- Gutiérrez, R. Rare Birds in Spain
- Reservoir Birds