Overview

Brief Summary

Biology

The Réunion harrier feeds mainly on small vertebrates such as frogs, reptiles, rats, birds, shrews and insects. It hunts by flying low over vegetation and dropping onto its prey below. With impressive dexterity, the Réunion harrier is known to pass prey to mates and young whilst in flight (6). Réunion harriers are polygynous (6), meaning that males have more than one female partner. Male Réunion harriers start to perform twisting aerial display flights between August and September, accompanied with calls, in order to attract a mate (4). Females usually lay two to three eggs in a nest of grass and weed stems on the ground or in low vegetation between December and May. The eggs are incubated for 33 to 36 days and the young fledge after 45 to 50 days (5), remaining with the parents up until October (4).
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Description

The Réunion harrier is the only raptor currently breeding on Réunion Island and has the smallest population of any bird species there (4). The male Réunion harrier has a predominantly black head and dark back, contrasting with light grey primaries and secondaries, and a white rump, belly and underwings. Female Réunion harriers are larger than males and have dark brown plumage with a barred tail (2). Immature Réunion harriers are similar in appearance to the female birds, while chicks are pale grey (5). This species has relatively short, rounded wings, which are thought to be an adaptation to hunting in dense vegetation, and a long middle toe which is typical of a bird-hunting specialist (6). The Réunion harrier can be heard making a grating kiay kioo near the breeding site, and the male calls with a kai pi-pi-pi-pi-pi during display flights (2).
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Distribution

Range Description

Circus maillardi is confined to Réunion (to France). Current population estimates range from less than 100 pairs to 125-130 (Bretagnolle et al. 2000), 130-170 pairs (M. Le Corre in litt. 1999), and 150 confirmed or probable pairs (Grondin & Philippe 2011). A population of around 130 pairs probably equates to a total population close to or exceeding 500 individuals (V. Bretagnolle in litt. 2007, estimated by Grondin & Philippe (2011) at at least 564 individuals. The range appears to have been stable from the late 1970s to the present (Bretagnolle et al. 2000), and numbers were believd to be at least stable and probably increasing as a consequence of protection (Cheke 1987c, M. Le Corre in litt. 2000, V. Bretagnolle in litt. 2007). However, a decrease in population density was observed in some areas between 2000 and 2010, while some areas were occupied in 2010 that were unoccupied in 2000, making the overall trend difficult to determine (Grondin & Philippe 2011). Most suitable habitat is occupied, albeit with varying densities (M. Le Corre in litt. 2000).

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Range

Réunion (w Indian Ocean).
  • Clements, J. F., T. S. Schulenberg, M. J. Iliff, D. Roberson, T. A. Fredericks, B. L. Sullivan, and C. L. Wood. 2014. The eBird/Clements checklist of birds of the world: Version 6.9. Downloaded from http://www.birds.cornell.edu/clementschecklist/download/

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Range

The Réunion harrier is endemic to Réunion Island in the Indian Ocean (2) (6).
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Ecology

Habitat

Habitat and Ecology

Habitat and Ecology
When breeding, it largely occupies indigenous and degraded forests (Clouet 1978, V. Bretagnolle in litt. 1999, M. Le Corre in litt. 1999) - although rarely tall, dense forest - mostly between 300 and 700 m. It forages in most habitats, but particularly in wooded and forested habitats (65%), as well as cultivated (sugarcane) fields and pastures (20%) and open grasslands and savannas (15%) (Bretagnolle et al. 2000). Its original diet was probably entirely birds and insects, but now c.50% consists of introduced mammals such as rats, mice and tenrec Tenrec ecaudatus (Clouet 1978). Reptiles, particualrly Oriental garden lizard Calotes versicolor, are also commonly taken (V. Grondin in litt. 2012). It will also take carrion. Its fecundity is poor for a member of the Circus genus and is probably related to the lack of natural predators and low benefits of dispersion (Clouet 1978). The nest is built on the ground.


Systems
  • Terrestrial
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When breeding, the Réunion harrier nests in indigenous and degraded forests, between 300 and 700 metres above sea level (2). It forages in a range of habitats, but particularly in wooded and forested areas, as well as cultivated (sugarcane) fields and open grasslands and savannahs (2) (6).
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Conservation

Conservation Status

IUCN Red List Assessment


Red List Category
EN
Endangered

Red List Criteria
B1ab(iii);D

Version
3.1

Year Assessed
2012

Assessor/s
BirdLife International

Reviewer/s
Taylor, J. & Butchart, S.

Contributor/s
Bretagnolle, V., Le Corre, M., Safford, R. & Grondin, V.

Justification
This species is classified as Endangered since it has an extremely small population and a very small range, within which habitat continues to be lost and degraded.

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Status

Classified as Endangered (EN) on the IUCN Red List (1) and listed on Appendix II of CITES (3).
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Population

Population
Population estimates range from fewer than 100 pairs to 125-130 (Bretagnolle et al. 2000), 130-170 pairs (M. Le Corre in litt. 1999), and most recently 564 adults recorded in 2009-2010, including c.150 confirmed or probable pairs, with the total number perhaps higher (Grondin & Philippe 2011) giving a range of 200-560 mature individuals.


Population Trend
Decreasing
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Threats

Major Threats
Poaching (M. Le Corre in litt. 1999) and persecution (it is believed to be a predator of chickens and, formerly at least, was considered a bird of ill omen) (Jakubek et al. 1997) continue, despite protective legislation, and together with secondary poisoning from rodenticides constitute the most serious current threats (Grondin & Philippe 2011). Increasing urbanisation and road construction bring disturbance further into the breeding habitat. Below 1,300 m, cultivation and urbanisation have eliminated native forest from all but the steepest of slopes. Cyclones, heavy rains and fires may possibly degrade remaining habitat (Bretagnolle et al. 2000) that is already increasingly degraded by exotic plants (Macdonald et al. 1991). Other possible threats include agricultural pesticide use, silvicultural management of some forests, collisions with electrical cables and wind turbines, and human hunting pressure on some prey species (e.g. larger birds)(Bretagnolle et al. 2000, Grondin & Philippe 2011).

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The Réunion harrier is one of the rarest raptors in the world (4). Habitat loss is the main threat to this bird (2), with the island it inhabits losing 75 percent of its native vegetation cover since 1946 (7). Cultivation and urbanisation have eliminated native forest from all but the steepest of slopes (2), and the high level of human population growth and economic development on Réunion Island has resulted in an increase in urbanisation, road construction and tourism, causing further habitat destruction (2) (4). The natural habitat is also degraded by exotic plants, making the land more susceptible to the impacts of cyclones, heavy rains and fires (2). Compounding the threat of habitat loss is hunting; poaching and persecution continues, despite protective legislation, as the Réunion harrier is locally believed to predate on chickens (2). Other possible threats include agricultural pesticide use and human hunting pressure on some prey species (2).
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Management

Conservation Actions

Conservation Actions
Conservation Actions Underway
CITES Appendix II. It has been protected since 1966, with protection strengthened in 1974, leading to an increase in numbers (Cheke 1987c), and is protected by a 1989 Ministerial Decree. Ongoing public awareness campaigns and conservation action aim to stop poaching and to rescue and release poached birds (M. Le Corre in litt. 1999). Between 1997-2009 103 individuals were taken into care, many in a critical condition, of which 43 were successfully released back into the wild (Grondin & Philippe 2011). Advice has been given on minimising secondary poisoning occurring as a result of rodent control. A Species Action Plan was published in 2011 (Grondin & Philippe 2011).

Conservation Actions Proposed
Monitor its population trends. Continue developing public awareness campaigns to stop poaching and persecution. Protect remaining habitat. Ensure that rodent control methods minimise the risk of secondary poisoning (M. Le Corre in litt. 1999, Grondin & Philippe 2011). Develop a strategy to decrease collisions with cables and wind turbines, and improve care of birds brought to SEOR care centre (V. Grondin in litt. 2012).

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Conservation

There are a number of protected areas on Réunion Island and it is vital that the remaining suitable habitat for the Réunion harrier is protected from further degradation and that public awareness campaigns are developed in order to stop poaching and persecution (2) (7). Population trends need to be monitored and ecological research is required to determine the effects of forest clearance and aid conservation plans (2).
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Wikipedia

Réunion harrier

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, where it is known locally as the papangue or pied jaune, although fossil material from Mauritius has been referred to this species. 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.

Description[edit]

Specimen in Réunion Natural History Museum

It is about 42–55 cm long; the female is around 3–15% larger than the male.[2] 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.[3]

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.[2]

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

Ecology[edit]

It is typically found in forested upland areas between 300 and 700 m above sea-level.[3] 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.[3] It will also take small lizards, frogs and carrion.[2][3] 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.[4] It breeds between January and May and lays two or three white eggs in a nest on the ground.[3][5]

Status and conservation[edit]

In 2011 it had an estimated population of at least 564 birds including about 150 breeding pairs.[3] 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.[3] 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.[3]

Sites identified by BirdLife International as being important for the conservation of the species are the Important Bird Areas (IBAs) of:[6]

Taxonomy[edit]

Sub-fossil remains of a Réunion harrier 9–10 and other birds from Mauritius

The species was described in 1862 by Jules Verreaux. He named it in honour of Louis Maillard, a French botanist and engineer who mentioned the bird in a book about the island.

In 1893 Alfred Newton and Hans Gadow described tarsometatarsi, tibiae and metacarpals from a hawk called Astur alphonsi (later renamed Accipiter alphonsi and Circus alphonsi) from Mauritius.[7] In 1958 James Greenway considered this taxon as conspecific with the pied harrier.[8] A later examination of the bones came to the conclusion that Astur alphonsi is actually identical with Circus maillardi, which formerly occurred on Mauritius too but is now extirpated.[9]

References[edit]

  1. ^ BirdLife International (2012). "Circus maillardi". IUCN Red List of Threatened Species. Version 2013.2. International Union for Conservation of Nature. Retrieved 26 November 2013. 
  2. ^ a b c Ferguson-Lees, James & David A. Christie (2001) Raptors of the World, Christopher Helm, London.
  3. ^ a b c d e f g h BirdLife International (2014) Species factsheet: Circus maillardi. Downloaded from http://www.birdlife.org on 26 January 2014.
  4. ^ Clarke, Roger (1995) The Marsh Harrier, Hamlyn, London.
  5. ^ Barré, Nicolas; Armand Barau & Christian Jouanin (1996) Oiseaux de la Réunion, Les Éditions du Pacifique, Paris.
  6. ^ "Reunion Harrier". Important Bird Areas factsheet. BirdLife International. 2014. Retrieved 2014-03-07. 
  7. ^ Rothschild, Walter (1907) Extinct Birds, Hutchinson & Co., London.
  8. ^ Greenway, James (1958; 1967 for the 2nd edition) Extinct and Vanishing Birds of the World, Dover Publications.
  9. ^ Mourer-Chauviré, Cécile; Roger Bour & Sonia Ribes (2004) "The taxonomic identity of Circus alphonsi (Newton & Gadow 1893), the extinct harrier from Mauritius", Ibis, 146 (1): 168-172.
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