The Western Marsh Harrier is 43 to 54 cm (17 to 21 in) in length, has a wingspan of 120 to 140 cm and a weight of 400 to 650 g in males and 500 to 800 g in females. Longevity: 17 years.
It is a large, bulky harrier with fairly broad wings, and has a strong and peculiar sexual dichromatism. The male’s plumage is mostly a cryptic reddish-brown with lighter yellowish streaks, which are particularly prominent on the breast. The head and shoulders are mostly pale greyish-yellowish. The rectrices and the secondary and tertiary remiges are pure grey, the latter contrasting with the brown forewing and the black primary remiges at the wingtips. The upperside and underside of the wing look similar, though the brown is lighter on the underwing. Whether from the side or below, flying males appear characteristically three-colored brown-grey-black. The legs, feet, irides and the cere of the black bill are yellow.
The female is almost entirely chocolate-brown. The top of the head, the throat and the shoulders have of a conspicuously lighter yellowish colour; this can be clearly delimited and very contrasting, or (particularly in worn plumage) be more washed-out, resembling the male’s head colours. But the eye area of the female is always darker, making the light eye stand out, while the male’s head is altogether not very contrastingly coloured and the female lacks the grey wing-patch and tail. Juveniles are similar to females, but usually have less yellow, particularly on the shoulders. There is a rare hypermelanic morph with largely dark plumage. It is most often found in the east of the species’ range. Juveniles of this morph may look entirely black in flight.
In the summer, he rarely makes strong shouts.
Distribution and Habitat
Palearctic species whose breeding area covers Northwest Africa, Europe and Asia, Australia, New Zealand and some islands of the Pacific and Indian Ocean. Winters south in tropical Africa and South Asia.
It inhabits marshes, lakes and estuaries of rivers with dense reed vegetation and a reef. During migrations and wintering prefers various natural and artificial wetlands in the lower parts of the country.
In Bulgaria it is a migratory species, winters in the Mediterranean and Africa, but in some regions it is also found in the winter. There is a small spread in the lower parts of the country, most often along the Danube River, lakes and estuaries of rivers along the Black Sea coast and the wetlands in the Sofia Field and the Thracian Plain.
Foods frogs, waterfowl, rodents, insects and rarely fish in shallow waters.
A monogamous bird builds its nest in a dense reed, keeping its height at the level of water. Lays 3-6 eggs that the female hatch for about 35 days. The little ones leave the nest at about 32-35 days of age and the parents feed them for some time.
It is protected in the territory of Bulgaria under the BDA. Included in the Bulgarian Red Book of Endangered Species (1985).