Wise Birding Holidays

Wednesday, 13 May 2015

Pallid Harriers

Pallid Harriers have always fascinated me, ever since I saw my first on the Isle of Sheppey in August 2002! I have also acquired a fair few photos over the years, so thought I would put them to some good use!

Aside from Kent, I have been lucky enough to see Pallid Harriers in Kenya, Jordan and most regularly on the Greek island of Lesvos. During this time I have always been eager to gain more experience about id and ageing. Lesvos is certainly a place to do that and I must thank KM for always being so approachable in sharing his knowledge of an evening. I am always learning more on every visit and the more you see the more you learn!

Turn back the clock by just 10-15 years and Pallid Harrier was  an extremely rare bird in the UK and certainly anything other than an adult male was considered an id challenge. These days with breeding populations expanding with recent colonists in Finland and birds appearing in Spain more regularly, the species is almost annual in the UK, the most common plumage being juveniles during the Autumn. 

Sightings in Lesvos during April are pretty much annual and seem to mostly relate to 2CY birds. Good views are always the key to a positive identification and more often than not, getting photos are usually essential to confirming all the features, as caution is always needed!


This grainy photo from the archives, shows my very first Pallid Harrier in Kent, August 2002.
A 3CY bird. Pretty much a full adult bar some central brownish central tail feathers moulting into adult.


Same bird as above

Adult or near adult male Pallid Harrier, Finland May, 2014. Strikingly pale with classic strongly contrasting black "wedges" in primaries

Adult or near adult male Pallid Harrier, Finland, May 2014

Adult male Pallid Harrier, Jordan, October 2013



2CY Male Pallid Harrier, Kalloni Salt Pans, April 2015

2CY Male Pallid Harrier, Kalloni Salt Pans, April 2015. Note the 4 "fingered primaries", (Hen shows 5 and Pallid and Montagu's just 4)
the dark ear covert patch contrasting with pale collar and the grey feathers beginning to come through on the mantle.

2CY Male Pallid Harrier, Kalloni Salt Pans, April 2015. Classic underwing pattern showing the pale and "unframed" look to the
underside of the primary edges. The primary tips are "diffusely" dark tipped. The unmarked pale base to the primaries shows
the "pale boomerang." 

Yellow iris confirms sex as male, though grey on upperparts perhaps more helpful in field at distance.

2CY male Pallid Harrier, Kalloni Salt Pans, April 2014. Again pale colar contrasting with dark area on ear coverts,
but underwing must be seen for positive id.

Yellow iris confirms sex as male.
2CY male Pallid Harrier, Kalloni Salt Pans, April 2014. Same bird as above. Still showing a lot of juvenile ginger coloration below.
Most 2CY birds seem to hold onto the classic juvenile plumage until late in the year. 
Primary barring mostly confined to central primaries. Pale "boomerang" visible.
Pale collar between dark cheek patch and dark "boa"
2CY male Pallid Harrier, Kalloni Salt Pans, April 2013


Similar to bird from 2014 in that it retains juvenile plumage still, despite being mid April.

Yellow iris confirms sex as male. Pale boomerang also apparent on underwing and although the pale collar and dark ear coverts
present, they seem to have been burned out by raising the light levels in the photo. See photo above for more realistic impression.

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