Harriers are migrant birds of prey inhabiting primarily open areas and wetlands. The conversion of grasslands into other forms of use threaten their existence in the wintering areas.
Harriers are a group of birds that belong to the hawk family. The word 'Harrier' may have been derived from an old English term 'Hergian' meaning to harass by hostile attacks. Its scientific name Circus may have come from the Greek work 'Kirkos' meaning "fly around in circles” (Naoroji 2006). Look up this blog for interesting anecdotes on the etymology of the word ‘harrier’, ‘Circus’ and others.
Sixteen species of harriers belonging to the genus Circus are distributed worldwide throughout tropical and temperate regions. Six of these migrate to India during winter. Harriers appear much smaller than a black kite and majority of the males have varying shades of grey in their plumage and female generally sport browner plumage. Juveniles of a few species are rufous.
Threats – Of the 6 species of harriers that visit India, one is threatened and 4 are showing declining trends of which 3 are dryland species. The more wetland depended ones like the Marsh harriers are showing some trends of being stable or increasing.
As part of the Harrierwatch project, we are exploring and monitoring the migration patterns, wintering sites, harrier diet and the availability of grassland and savannahs for wintering harriers in India. Birdwatchers, and nature photographers can contribute their images to help us understand harrier migration and diet. Please refer "diet" and "ringed harriers" pages for more details.Birdwatchers, naturalists and photographers can choose to explore the below mentioned areas (maps) to document harrier occurrence and help us learn more about harriers.