Male harrier raises chicks on his own

This is a video from Sweden about a male marsh harrier.

Translated from the blog of Staatsbosbeheer on Texel island, the Netherlands:

Birdwatcher and Forestry volunteer Klaus Brass saw something special this year when a marsh harrier nested along the Waalenburgerdijkje on Texel. He wrote this report:

A ‘bad mother’ Marsh Harrier Circus aeruginosus, or: how a male raises youngsters without help

While we were mowing along the busy cycle track between the old dike and the Pijpersdijk on Texel a Forestry colleague had observed a marsh harrier, flying just above the reed bed. He said there probably was a nest there. I wanted to know exactly and sat down on a bench on the other side of the bike path near trees. And yes, there suddenly a male appeared with prey. It landed about 35 meter before me in the reed bed, and reappeared after 20 long minutes. It seemed as though the male had been dividing the prey on the nest; so, not the usual prey transfer to the female in mid-flight. In the vicinity of the nest, after two hours of observation, still no female in sight. This observation made me more curious. Also the next day, the still rather young (probably two years old) male was the only one going to the nest with prey.

The weather conditions were bad for raptors during the breeding season, especially in the second half of June: strong winds and heavy rain do not really contribute to the success of a brood. 2012 was also anything but a good mouse year. My observations at the nest confirmed that: the prey brought by the male consisted for up to 80% of (edible) frogs, which he dumped without dividing into the nest. Sometimes the father came flying in with a rat or a moorhen.

Only on the 41st day my suspicion became reality, because I then saw three young marsh harriers taking off simultaneously. A small miracle!

The literature has described just one similar case, of a male Marsh Harrier in the Ebro Valley in Spain, which, after the 37-38th day of the nestlings’ lives lost his partner for unknown reasons (Fernández & Azkona 1992).

Why the healthy looking female stopped feeding her young is unknown. The nest is located 30 meters from a cycle track where people used to pass almost constantly. At 20 m away, sometimes kids played or there were dogs running on the lawn and twice there was a tractor making hay for hours. With a little sunshine people sat down on the bench, enjoying blooming rape field blooming beautifully. Possibly these human activities were too much for the female.

See also here.

RSPB Hen harrier research receives special recognition in raptor science competition: here.

29 thoughts on “Male harrier raises chicks on his own

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