Overview

Distribution

Range Description

Circus macrosceles is confined to the Comoro Islands and Madagascar. It has not been seen recently on Mayotte (to France) (Safford 2001). The species has a broad distribution stretching c.1,000 km from north to south on Madagascar, but occurs at very low densities; surveys in 2005-2006 of 71 % of the potential harrier habitat on the island recorded a total of 80 individuals (René de Roland et al. 2009). The population on Comoros (Grande Comore, Moheli and Anjouan: three separate subpopulations), where its habitat is nearly totally destroyed, is estimated at no more than 50 mature individuals (R. Thorstrom and L.-A. René de Roland in litt. 2007). The total population is estimated to be somewhere in the range 250-500 mature individuals. The Bealanana and Ankozobe regions in Madagascar are particularly important for the species (René de Roland et al. 2009). It is suspected to be declining, but population trends have not yet been accurately quantified.

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Range

Madagascar and Comoro Islands.

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Ecology

Habitat

Habitat and Ecology

Habitat and Ecology
In Madagascar, it is primarily associated with wetlands, hunting around the periphery of vegetation-fringed lakes, marshes, coastal wetlands and rice-paddies, as well as over savanna grasslands (Langrand 1990), including those that are very degraded(R. Safford in litt. 1999). On the Comoros, it uses a variety of open and forested habitats in drier areas. It feeds on small vertebrates (including birds) and insects (Langrand 1990, Morris and Hawkins 1998). It nests in low vegetation or on the ground in marshes (Morris and Hawkins 1998, René de Roland et al. 2004, 2009). Breeding has been recorded as starting in late August and September, during the middle of the dry season (René de Roland et al. 2004). The incubation period has been observed to be 32-34 days, and nestlings fledge at 42-45 days of age at the start of the rainy season. The species reproduces at a relatively low rate, with mean clutch size recorded as 2.9 eggs, average productivity recorded as 0.9 young fledged per breeding attempt, and three quarters of nests being successful. The diet is comprised of insects, snakes, birds, lizards, rodents and domestic chickens (René de Roland et al. 2004).


Systems
  • Terrestrial
  • Freshwater
  • Marine
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Conservation

Conservation Status

IUCN Red List Assessment


Red List Category
VU
Vulnerable

Red List Criteria
C2a(i);D1

Version
3.1

Year Assessed
2012

Assessor/s
BirdLife International

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

Contributor/s
Hawkins, F., Rabarisoa, R., Rene de Roland, L., Safford, R. & Thorstrom, R.

Justification
This species qualifies as Vulnerable as it has a very small population which is likely to be declining owing to a variety of threats, principally habitat loss and degradation, and persecution by humans. Recent surveys suggest that the species is rarer than previously thought, and confirmation of these lower population estimates or further elucidation of the subpopulation structure may lead to the species being uplisted to a higher threat category.

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Population

Population
Surveys in 2005-2006 of 71% of the potential harrier habitat in Madagascar recorded a total of 80 individuals. The population on Comoros (three separate subpopulations on Grande Comore, Moheli and Anjouan), where its habitat is nearly totally destroyed, is estimated at no more than 50 mature individuals (R. Thorstrom and L.-A. René de Roland in litt. 2007). The total population is here estimated to be somewhere in the range 270-500 mature individuals, roughly equivalent to 400-750 individuals in total, but this estimate may need to be revised downwards.

Population Trend
Decreasing
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Threats

Major Threats
In Madagascar, this species is likely to have very poor nesting success owing to the regular and comprehensive burning of grasslands and marshes, especially in the central high-plateau region (to produce fresh grazing areas and to clear land)(René de Roland et al. 2004, 2009, Anon. 2007), and due to egg-hunting and nest-destruction by local people (ZICOMA 1999, A. F. A. Hawkins in litt. 2000). Most savannah fires occur from August to November, thus coinciding with the species's breeding season (René de Roland et al. 2009). For example, in October 2005, all seven nests at Ambohitantely were destroyed by fire during the incubation period, resulting in the loss of all eggs (L-. A. René de Roland in litt. 2006, René de Roland et al. 2009.). Conversion of wetlands for rice farming is also likely to have a negative impact upon the species (René de Roland et al. 2004, 2009, L.-A. René de Roland in litt. 2006, Anon. 2007). Over 80% of marshland in Madagascar has been converted into rice fields (R. Thorstrom and L.-A. René de Roland in litt. 2007), mainly in areas of dense human inhabitation (René de Roland et al. 2009). Nestlings are often taken by people for food, and interviews with local communities have revealed that adults are also hunted for food (Anon. 2007, René de Roland et al. 2009). The species is also persecuted because of its threat to poultry, however, in one study of breeding birds, domestic chickens accounted for only 1% of prey items (René de Roland et al. 2004). The disturbance of marshes appears to limit the number of breeding pairs present, and human activities during the cultivation period may force the movement of birds. The species requires undisturbed areas with unaltered savannah, however land-use activities have rendered it absent from many areas of Madagascar (René de Roland et al. 2009).

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Management

Conservation Actions

Conservation Actions
Conservation Actions Underway
CITES Appendix II. It has been recorded from a number of protected areas, including five National Parks, one Strict Reserve, one Special Reserve, one Classified Forest and one Hunting Reserve (ZICOMA 1999). However, the protection of the marshes and grasslands that are vital for the species is relatively neglected compared with the protection of forest in Madagascar (René de Roland et al. 2004, 2009). The species is the subject of research into its population (René de Roland et al. 2009, L.- A. René de Roland in litt. 2006, Anon. 2007) and breeding biology (René de Roland et al. 2004).

Conservation Actions Proposed
Carry out further surveys to confirm the total population size. Study the species's population dynamics (René de Roland et al. 2004). Obtain more accurate estimates of nesting success, and investigate relative importance of different mortality factors at nest. Reduce burning at key sites, particularly during the breeding season when fires destroy nests. Identify and establish protected areas to conserve key nesting sites. Improve protection of marshes and grasslands (René de Roland et al. 2009). Raise awareness amongst local communities about the impacts of fire (René de Roland et al. 2009). Study the species's ecology on Comoros(René de Roland et al. 2009).

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Wikipedia

Malagasy Harrier

The Malagasy harrier (Circus macrosceles) is a bird of prey belonging to the marsh harrier group of harriers. It inhabits Madagascar and the Comoro Islands in the Indian Ocean. It was formerly regarded as a subspecies of the Réunion harrier (C. maillardi) but is increasingly treated as a separate species. It is also known as the Madagascar harrier, Madagascar marsh harrier or Malagasy marsh harrier.

Description[edit]

It is about 42–55 cm long; the female is up to 13% larger than the male. The male has a blackish back and a greyer head with dark streaks. The underparts and rump are whitish and the tail is grey with dark bars. The forewings and wingtips are blackish while the secondaries are grey with dark bars. Females are browner than the males.

The Réunion harrier is smaller and darker with shorter legs and shorter, more rounded wings. Males have a blacker head and plainer secondaries and tail.

Distribution and habitat[edit]

In Madagascar it is found in marshland and grassland across the island except for the south. It is generally scarce with the largest numbers in the north-west. It occurs from sea-level up to 1800 m. On the Comoros it is more often found in drier habitats and in forested areas. It has occurred on all four main islands but there are no recent records from Mayotte.

Its population size is uncertain but is estimated to be between 250 and 999 individuals. It is thought to be declining as a result of hunting and habitat destruction and is classed as vulnerable by BirdLife International.

Behaviour[edit]

It feeds mainly on birds such as the Madagascan partridge and also takes reptiles, amphibians, rodents and insects. It typically feeds by flying low over the ground and dropping down rapidly when it spots its prey. It will also hunt over the canopy of forests.

It breeds in marshland, building a nest of grass and stems on the ground or low in a bush. The white eggs are incubated for about 32–34 days and the young birds fledge after 42–45 days.

References[edit]

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