Cinereous Harrier (Circus cinereus)

Cinereous Harrier

[order] ACCIPITRIFORMES | [family] Accipitridae | [latin] Circus cinereus | [authority] Vieillot, 1816 | [UK] Cinereous Harrier | [FR] Busard bariole | [DE] Grauweihe | [ES] Aguilucho vari | [NL] Grijze Kiekendief


Genus Species subspecies Region Range
Circus cinereus SA w, s


The genus Circus is a cosmopolitan genus of about ten species. They are medium-sized, slender hawks, the female being considerably larger than the male. They are characterised by long, narrow, rounded tails, small beaks and long, slender legs. The most notable characteristic is the owl-like ruff of facial feathers that cover unusually large ear openings – an adaptation not for low-light hunting, but to locate prey by their rustling and squeaking in tall grasses.

Physical charateristics

The adult grey colouration extends across the upperparts, with a slightly darker area on the back. By contrast, the underparts are white, with bold, rufous barring. The adult female is easily distinguished from the male, with dark brown upperparts edged and spotted with paler markings, and grey-tinged, dark-barred flight feathers and tail. The underparts are white and heavily streaked brown on the throat, with brown barring on the chest becoming rufous below. Both sexes have a bright yellow, bare patch of skin at the base of the blackish-grey bill and orange-yellow legs. The juvenile cinereous harrier resembles the adult female, but is blackish-brown above and creamy buff below, with dusky streaking rather than barring

Listen to the sound of Cinereous Harrier

[audio: Harrier.mp3]

Copyright remark: Most sounds derived from xeno-canto

wingspan min.: 0 cm wingspan max.: 0 cm
size min.: 42 cm size max.: 50 cm
incubation min.: 0 days incubation max.: 0 days
fledging min.: 0 days fledging max.: 0 days
broods: 1   eggs min.: 3  
      eggs max.: 4  


South America : West, South. It ranges from the southern border of Colombia, south along the Andes, through Ecuador, Peru, Bolivia, Chile and western-central Argentina. Its range also extends eastwards through Paraguay, south-east Brazil and Uruguay


The cinereous harrier occupies open country, in particular moorland, marshes, pastures and rushy hollows in grassland and scrub, from sea-level to elevations of 4,500 metres. It also occurs in the high-altitude grassland regions of the central Andes, most commonly near vast lakes at elevations above 3,000 metres


This species is normally silent, except during the breeding season, when the male and female make rapid, chattering calls while engaged in aerial, courtship displays and while defending the nest. Eggs are usually laid after mid-November, and the young are fledged by January. The nest is a heap of rushes, grass or other vegetation, up to 40 centimetres across and 30 centimetres deep, which is placed on the edge of bed of rushes or in damp grass or scrub

Feeding habits

It mainly feeds upon various mammal and bird species, including the downy chicks of coots and waders, but will also take reptiles, frogs and insects

Video Cinereous Harrier


copyright: J. del Hoyo


This species has an extremely large range, and hence does not approach the thresholds for Vulnerable under the range size criterion (Extent of Occurrence <20,000 km2 combined with a declining or fluctuating range size, habitat extent/quality, or population size and a small number of locations or severe fragmentation). Despite the fact that the population trend appears to be decreasing, the decline is not believed to be sufficiently rapid to approach the thresholds for Vulnerable under the population trend criterion (>30% decline over ten years or three generations). The population size may be moderately small to large, but it is not believed to approach the thresholds for Vulnerable under the population size criterion (<10,000 mature individuals with a continuing decline estimated to be >10% in ten years or three generations, or with a specified population structure). For these reasons the species is evaluated as Least Concern.
Cinereous Harrier status Least Concern


Migratory and resident, but transition between these populations not known. Southernmost birds move North to North Argentina, Paraguay and S Brazil; no records in austral winter (May-Aug) from Isla Grande (Tierra del Fuego). Birds appear erratically in Bolivia, perhaps from South part of range.

Distribution map

Cinereous Harrier distribution range map

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