Black Harriers

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Photo Wanted The Black Harrier, Circus maurus, is endemic to South Africa, Botswana and Namibia.

The greatest number of breeding pairs can be found in the Western Cape province, South Africa. In this area loose colonies aggregate around coastal wetlands. Breeding in Namibia is suspected but not confirmed.

The Black Harrier population has declined in recent years to less than 1000 birds and it is now classified as vulnerable, despite still having a wide breeding range. This is due to the destruction of its original breeding habitat, South Africa's natural shrubland, the fynbos, which has been greatly reduced by encroaching cereal culture and urban expansion. It is listed on Appendix II of CITES.


The Black Harrier is medium-sized (up to 53cm long). When perched, this bird appears all black. However, in flight a white rump and flight feathers become visible. Its morphology is comparable to that of other harriers, with a slim body, narrow wings and a long tail. Male and female plumages are similar.

Immatures have buff under-parts and a heavily spotted breast.

Breeding / Nesting

Like other harriers it nests on the ground in tall vegetation. Three to five eggs are laid and incubated 35 days.

Diet / Feeding

It feeds mostly on small rodents and birds and will occasionally take reptiles, catching them while flying low over its hunting grounds.

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