Réunion harrier

Réunion harrier

Réunion harrier, Réunion marsh harrier

4 languages
Circus maillardi

The Réunion harrier or Réunion marsh harrier (Circus maillardi ) is a bird of prey belonging to the marsh harrier group of harriers. It is now found only on the Indian Ocean island of Réunion, although fossil material from Mauritius has been referred to this species. It is known locally as the papangue or pied jaune. The Malagasy harrier (C. macrosceles ) of Madagascar and the Comoro Islands was previously treated as a subspecies of this bird but is increasingly regarded as a separate species. The Réunion harrier appears to be declining in numbers and it is classed as an endangered species.


It is about 42–55 cm long; the female is around 3–15% larger than the male. The male has a blackish head and back with white streaks. The underparts, underwings and rump are white and the tail is grey. The wings are grey and black with a white leading edge. Females and immatures are dark brown with a white rump and barred tail.

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The birds are mostly silent except during the breeding season when they give a chattering threat call, a wailing courtship call and chuckling food-associated calls.

The Malagasy harrier is larger and paler with longer wings and legs.

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Biogeographical realms
Réunion harrier habitat map
Réunion harrier habitat map

Habits and Lifestyle

It is typically found in forested upland areas between 300 and 700 m above sea-level. It also visits cane fields and grassland. Today its diet includes many introduced mammals (rats, mice and tenrecs) but it originally fed mainly on birds and insects. It will also take small lizards, frogs and carrion. It has a number of adaptations which are unusual among harriers: broad rounded wings for hunting between trees and a short tarsus and long claws, which are common among those birds of prey which feed on other birds. It breeds between January and May and lays two or three white eggs in a nest on the ground.

Seasonal behavior

Diet and Nutrition


Population number

In 2011 it had an estimated population of at least 564 birds including about 150 breeding pairs. It has been evaluated as endangered by BirdLife International and it is threatened by destruction and disturbance of its habitat and by poaching, deliberate persecution and accidental poisoning by rodenticides. It became a protected species in 1966 and its numbers were thought to be stable or increasing until 2000–2010 when its population appeared to decrease.

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Sites identified by BirdLife International as being important for the conservation of the species are the Important Bird Areas (IBAs) of:

  • Mouth of the Cirque de Salazie
  • Ravine de la Grande Chaloupe
  • Rivière des Marsouins – Grand Étang
  • Rivière des Remparts - Rivière Langevin

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1. Réunion harrier Wikipedia article - https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Réunion_harrier
2. Réunion harrier on The IUCN Red List site - https://www.iucnredlist.org/species/22728310/94979400

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