Family Hawks, Eagles (Accipitridae)

Least Concern

Papuan Harrier (Circus spilothorax)


French: Busard de Nouvelle-Guinée German: Papuaweihe Spanish: Aguilucho lagunero papú

Circus spilothorax

Salvadori and D’Albertis

, 1876,

#R Yule Island, New Guinea


Until recently was considered conspecific with C. spilonotus, but differs on account of 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). Further details available elsewhere#R. Monotypic.

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

C & E New Guinea.

Descriptive notes

47–61 cm; female 890 g (estimated); no data on wingspan. Among the world’s largest harriers, but few mensural data. Polymorphic. Male of normal morph black, white... read more


No information.


Extensive grasslands and open habitats of floodplains and other wetlands; usually seen soaring or... read more

Food and feeding

In a study in Papua New Guinea, birds (Coturnix sp., juvenile Rallus pectoralis, several passerines) were the most... read more


Two nests found in lowland Papua New Guinea in mid-May (estimated initiation dates first week of Apr at start of dry season) were in damp... read more


Some individuals probably move from lowlands to highlands to breed at start of dry season.

Status and conservation

Currently not considered globally threatened (Least Concern). Human persecution appears negligible. On basis of amount of suitable habitat (7% of New Guinea is grassland and... read more

Recommended citation

del Hoyo, J., Collar, N. & Marks, J.S. (2020). Papuan Harrier (Circus spilothorax). 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).