Friday 24 May
Black harrier (Circus maurus)
What’s the World’s Favourite Species?Find out here.
Black harrier fact file
- Find out more
- Print factsheet
Black harrier description
This striking bird of prey breeds in the unique and incredibly diverse fynbos habitat of South Africa; a habitat which is threatened by the activities of humans. Adult black harriers have black plumage with bold white stripes across the tail, a white rump, and conspicuous white wing panels (2) (5). Females are larger than males, and juveniles can be distinguished by their dark brown plumage, which is heavily mottled and streaked (2) (5). The genus name of the black harrier, Circus, refers to the male’s circling, acrobatic flight display, undertaken to impress a female during courtship (6).
- Busard maure.
- Aguilucho Negro.
- Length: 50 cm (2)
Black harrier biology
This aerial hunter feeds primarily on rodents, small birds and the occasional reptile (7), but also eats eggs, insects and, very occasionally, carrion (2). The black harrier soars low over the vegetation searching for prey, often hovering before plunging down to seize its meal (2).
Like other harriers, the black harrier makes an undulating courtship flight which precedes mating (2). Black harriers breed mainly in the wet season, and have been recorded laying eggs from July to September. Three to four pairs may nest close to one another (2), each building an untidy nest of grass at the base of stems, reeds or weeds (2). The three to four eggs that are laid are incubated for around 34 days, and the chicks fledge after 36 to 41 days (2). In winter, black harriers migrate north to the dry steppe and grassland habitats of southern Namibia, southern Botswana and southern Transvaal (2).Top
Black harrier range
Occurs in southern Africa, where it is primarily found in the Western Cape, Eastern Cape and Free State in South Africa, southern Botswana and Lesotho. A tiny, isolated population also exists in southern Namibia (1) (2).Top
Black harrier habitatTop
Black harrier statusTop
Black harrier threats
Whilst the black harrier is locally common, it is vulnerable to habitat degradation due to its restricted fynbos breeding habitat (2). Fynbos vegetation has been lost to agriculture, invasive alien vegetation and urbanization, resulting in the black harrier losing over 50 percent of its core breeding habitat over the last century (8). The diverse natural vegetation has been replaced by a sea of cereal (7), and evidence suggests that whilst black harriers forage in cropland, they generally do not breed in these modified habitats (8). In addition, black harriers are vulnerable to the impacts of pesticide and rodenticide use (2), which could accumulate within the bird, or reduce the availability of prey.Top
Black harrier conservation
The black harrier is listed in Appendix II of the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species (CITES), meaning that any trade in this bird should be carefully regulated (3). It is also listed on Appendix II of the Convention on Migratory Species, which encourages range states to conclude agreements that will benefit the conservation of the migratory black harrier (4). The black harrier also occurs in a number of protected areas, such as Fernkloof Nature Reserve, which offers a degree of protection. In 2000, a research project on the biology and conservation status of the black harrier in the Western Cape was initiated by the Percy Fitzpatrick Institute of African Ornithology (7), which has improved knowledge of this rare bird, but further conservation actions, such as additional monitoring and research, and the provision of incentives to landowners to manage valuable grassland habitat (5), are required to ensure the survival of this impressive bird of prey.Top
Find out more
For further information on the black harrier and its conservation see Raptors Namibia:
For further information on fynbos and the Cape Floral Kingdom see Walker Bay Fynbos Conservancy:
For more information on this and other bird species please see:
- BirdLife International:
AuthenticationThis information is awaiting authentication by a species expert, and will be updated as soon as possible. If you are able to help please contact: firstname.lastname@example.orgTop
- Dead flesh.
- The natural shrubland vegetation occurring in the southwestern and southern Cape of South Africa, holding the greatest diversity of plant species in the world. Fynbos is characterised by tall shrubs with large leaves, heath-like shrubs, wiry reed-like plants, and bulbous herbs.
- IUCN Red List (September, 2007)
- del Hoyo, J., Elliott, A. and Sargatal, J. (1994) Handbook of the Birds of the World. Vol. 2: New World Vultures to Guineafowl. Lynx Edicions, Barcelona.
- CITES (August, 2007)
- Convention on Migratory Species (August, 2007)
- BirdLife International (August, 2007)
- Simmons, R.E. (2000) Harriers of the World. Oxford University Press, Oxford.
- Curtis, O., Jenkins, A.R. and Simmons, R.E. (2001) The Black Harrier: work in progress. Africa – birds and birding, 6: 30 - 36.
- Curtis, O., Simmons, R.E. and Jenkins, A.R. (2004) Black Harrier Circus maurus of the Fynbos biome, South Africa: a threatened specialist or an adaptable survivor?. Bird Conservation International, 14: 233 - 245.
More »Related species
Play the Team WILD game
MyARKive offers the scrapbook feature to signed-up members, allowing you to organize your favourite ARKive images and videos and share them with friends.
Terms and Conditions of Use of Materials
Copyright in this website and materials contained on this website (Material) belongs to Wildscreen or its licensors.
Visitors to this website (End Users) are entitled to:
- view the contents of, and Material on, the website;
- download and retain copies of the Material on their personal systems in digital form in low resolution for their own personal use;
- teachers, lecturers and students may incorporate the Material in their educational material (including, but not limited to, their lesson plans, presentations, worksheets and projects) in hard copy and digital format for use within a registered educational establishment, provided that the integrity of the Material is maintained and that copyright ownership and authorship is appropriately acknowledged by the End User.
End Users shall not copy or otherwise extract, alter or manipulate Material other than as permitted in these Terms and Conditions of Use of Materials.
Additional use of flagged material
Green flagged material
Certain Material on this website (Licence 4 Material) displays a green flag next to the Material and is available for not-for-profit conservation or educational use. This material may be used by End Users, who are individuals or organisations that are in our opinion not-for-profit, for their not-for-profit conservation or not-for-profit educational purposes. Low resolution, watermarked images may be copied from this website by such End Users for such purposes. If you require high resolution or non-watermarked versions of the Material, please contact Wildscreen with details of your proposed use.
Creative commons material
Certain Material on this website has been licensed to Wildscreen under a Creative Commons Licence. These images are clearly marked with the Creative Commons buttons and may be used by End Users only in the way allowed by the specific Creative Commons Licence under which they have been submitted. Please see http://creativecommons.org for details.
Any other use
Please contact the copyright owners directly (copyright and contact details are shown for each media item) to negotiate terms and conditions for any use of Material other than those expressly permitted above. Please note that many of the contributors to ARKive are commercial operators and may request a fee for such use.
Save as permitted above, no person or organisation is permitted to incorporate any copyright material from this website into any other work or publication in any format (this includes but is not limited to: websites, Apps, CDs, DVDs, intranets, extranets, signage, digital communications or on printed materials for external or other distribution). Use of the Material for promotional, administrative or for-profit purposes is not permitted.