Family Hawks, Eagles (Accipitridae)


Madagascar Marsh-harrier (Circus macrosceles)


French: Busard de Madagascar German: Madagaskarweihe Spanish: Aguilucho lagunero malgache
Other common names: Madagascar Harrier

Circus macrosceles

A. Newton

, 1863,



Until recently, considered conspecific with C. maillardi, which differs on account of significantly smaller size (wing 355 mm vs 410 mm#R; at least 1) yet with longer claws and middle toe#R (at least 1) (2); in male, head or at least cheek black vs with blackish-and-whitish streaks (2); in male, flight-feathers unbarred and tail with subterminal dark band vs flight-feathers with two narrow bars, tail with four (2); in female, wings uniformly dark brown vs pale brownish-grey with dark streaking on coverts and barring on wings (3); white rump on male and barred rump on female vs barred rump on male and white rump on female (ns[2]). Monotypic.


Madagascar and Comoro Is; in latter, probably only a very rare visitor to Maore (Mayotte)#R.

Descriptive notes

54–59 cm; male 600 g (one), female 850 and 910g (two); wingspan 105–140 cm. Large Circus, with long wings and long tail. Male has white head and breast... read more


Mostly silent outside nesting period. Males give "koue" calls during aerial courtship;... read more


Variety of open areas including marshlands, grasslands, savannas, rice fields and edges of forests... read more

Food and feeding

On Madagascar, 272 prey items seen delivered to nests consisted of 48% insects, 21% snakes, 21% wild birds, 6% lizards (chameleons, ... read more


Nests initiated from late Aug–late Oct in dry season on Madagascar and in Oct on Comoro Is. Courtship behaviour by males on... read more


Sedentary at many permanent marshes, but nomadic in ephemeral habitats. At Ambohitantely Special... read more

Status and conservation

ENDANGERED. CITES II. Widely distributed on Madagascar, but nowhere common and not present on all wetlands. Surveys of Madagascar in 2005–2006 covered 71% of the... read more

Recommended citation

del Hoyo, J., Collar, N., Marks, J.S. & Sharpe, C.J. (2020). Madagascar Marsh-harrier (Circus macrosceles). 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).