Sunday 2 December 2012


Hen Harrier (Circus cyaneus). Male. By Steve Fletcher.

Winter is here and Hen Harriers (Circus cyaneus) become a common sight in the open landscapes of Extremadura. However, breeding is a story. In 2012 at least one case has been detected. Manolo Gómez Calzado reported in his blog "Grullas veo" a couple breeding in Esparragosa de Lares (Badajoz), with a nest on a field of three hectares of cultivated oats shared with respective pairs of Montagu's harrier (Circus pygargus) and Marsh harrier (Circus aeruginosus). At harvest time, on June 19, two young Hen harriers fledged perfectly, with no need for intervention to save them. They were still present on this territory until the end of June.

Northern Harrier (Circus cyaneus). Female. By Steve Fletcher. 

It is the first case we know of breeding in Extremadura since 2004, no less, when three couples were located in La Serena. According to the review by Traverso (2007), the species shows a clear downward trend since the first data from 1993 (7-10 pairs) and 1995 (five couples). Then there was an information gap until 2000, with subsequent breeding records only in 2003, 2004 and 2012. The area of occupancy has also been reduced from four counties in 1993 to a municipality and then only sporadically since 2004. Despite intensive campaigns to rescue harrier chicks, carried out in the last decade, no more records chave shown us reproduction. None was found nesting in the field during Atlas of the breeding birds of Spain (1998-2002) and in the national census of harriers in 2006.

After articles such as this above, people often forward us new unpublished data. So if any readers know of any nesting, successful or not, hen harrier in Extremadura, your comments and e-mails will be very much appreciate.

- Traverso, J. M. 2007. Situación del aguilucho pálido (Circus cyaneus) en Extremadura. En, Prieta, J. Aves de Extremadura. Vol. 3. 2001-2003. ADENEX. Mérida. [descargar]
- Prieta, J. y Mayordomo. 2011. Aves de Extremadura. Vol. 4. 2004-2008. SEO-Cáceres. Plasencia. [descargar]