Family Hawks, Eagles (Accipitridae)

Least Concern

African Marsh-harrier (Circus ranivorus)


French: Busard grenouillard German: Froschweihe Spanish: Aguilucho lagunero etiópico

Falco ranivorus


, 1800,

South Africa


Traditionally regarded as a member of the C. aeruginosus species-group (which see). Differs from C. aeruginosus in some aspects of plumage and morphology, probably in breeding behaviour and display, and in lack of pronounced sexual plumage dimorphism. Birds of E & C Africa sometimes placed in separate race, aequatorialis, on grounds of smaller size, but validity very doubtful. Monotypic.


DRCongo (mainly in E), South Sudan, Uganda and Kenya S to S South Africa; recorded NE to Ethiopia and Somalia.

Descriptive notes

44–49 cm; 382–590 g; wingspan 105–125 cm. Individually variable, mid-sized harrier with roundish-tipped wings, relatively long tail and wings fall well... read more


Only really vocal around nest: a plaintive whistled "jeeee-uk" and softer "to-woot... read more


Marshes (including dams and seasonal swamps) and adjacent grassland and cropland, which is used for... read more

Food and feeding

Small rodents and birds, up to size of 600 g teal (Anas); also nestlings (e.g. at heron colonies), eggs, frogs, insects, some... read more


Laying mainly in dry season: Jun–Oct in Kenya, Dec–Aug in Zambia and Zimbabwe; all months in S Africa (peak Jun–Nov in... read more


No regular movements described, although the species is not strictly resident in some areas, e.g.... read more

Status and conservation

Not globally threatened (Least Concern). CITES II. Common on major wetlands of E & S Africa, especially in Botswana, Zambia and Uganda. 500–1000 pairs in Transvaal... read more

Recommended citation

Kemp, A.C. & Kirwan, G.M. (2020). African Marsh-harrier (Circus ranivorus). In: del Hoyo, J., Elliott, A., Sargatal, J., Christie, D.A. & de Juana, E. (eds.). Handbook of the Birds of the World Alive. Lynx Edicions, Barcelona. (retrieved from on 25 January 2020).