Family Hawks, Eagles (Accipitridae)

Least Concern

Eastern Marsh-harrier (Circus spilonotus)


French: Busard d’Orient German: Mangroveweihe Spanish: Aguilucho lagunero oriental

Circus spilonotus


, 1847,



Often considered a subspecies of C. aeruginosus (which see), with which it hybridizes in E Siberia#R. Until recently, also thought to be conspecific with C. spilothorax, which now treated as a separate species owing to its smaller size (1); polymorphic plumage, with a practically all-black morph and another with solidly black (instead of streaked) throat, both unreported for spilonotus (2); pale-morph spilothorax (closest to spilonotus) darker than spilonotus and with dark tips of flight-feathers, which are generally much paler and concolorous with rest of feather in spilonotus (2); pale-morph spilothorax has more densely streaked throat than spilonotus (1); sedentary behaviour (2)#R. Monotypic.

What do (1) and (2) mean? Learn more about the scoring system.

SE Siberia and Mongolia to Ussuriland, Sakhalin, NE China and N Japan; winters from SE Asia, S China, Korea and S Japan to Indonesia (mainly Sumatra and N Borneo) and Philippines.

Descriptive notes

47–55 cm; 370–780 g; wingspan 119–145 cm. Male with white head and breast streaked with black or dark brown, white belly, dark mantle with white feather edgings... read more


Gives territorial “myuaa myuu kyuii” and “ke ke” calls. Male also utters squealing “pishee pishee... read more


Typically in extensive areas of dense marsh vegetation, especially reeds and reedmace, in aquatic... read more

Food and feeding

Great opportunist, lacks specialization; very wide range of prey, varying with local availability. Prefers small or medium-sized birds, and... read more


Laying from mid-May to early Jun. Nests on ground in marshes, mainly in reedbeds. Nest is fairly large; built of reeds and sticks, without... read more


Mostly migratory. Populations from SE Siberia, Mongolia and NE China winter from Burma to S China... read more

Status and conservation

Not globally threatened (Least Concern). CITES II. Very little information available about population sizes and trends. Generally rare and patchily distributed in former USSR... read more

Recommended citation

Orta, J., Kirwan, G.M., de Juana, E. & Marks, J.S. (2020). Eastern Marsh-harrier (Circus spilonotus). 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 24 February 2020).