Six species out of the sixteen harrier species that occur globally visit the Indian subcontinent during winter and spring. Know more about their diet, distribution, breeding, threats and conservation

Natural History

Harriers belong to the family Accipitridae and genus Circus. Recent molecular studieshave revealed that harriers may be closely related tosparrowhawks and goshawks (Accipiter) than previously suspected and theymay have evolved 4.9 to 12.2 million years ago (Mya). This coincides with the formation of open habitats such as grasslands and savanna that harriers use today. In addition the Late Miocene (5.3 to 11.6 Mya) also saw the worldwide explosive radiation of rodents, a group that most species of extant harriers feed on, which also probably facilitated them to colonize open habitats (Oatley et al 2015).

Harriers are solitary wanderers,relentlessly scanning, open agricultural lands, grasslands and thin scrub jungle, for insects, lizards,rodents and birds.Their diet varies withspecies, and also with seasons though we do not have much information on this from India.

A very unique behavior of Harriers is, they not only nest on the ground which is rare for a raptor, but also roost communally in large numbers in grasslands with a few occasionally taking to roost in trees or open fallow land. Harrier roosts are communal and can comprise up to three to five species roosting at the same site. The world’s largest harrier roost documented so far is at the Velavadhar National Park in Gujarat, India.