Pied Harrier: The Ultimate Guide

If you’ve ever seen any pictures of the pied harrier, you’ll definitely want to learn more about this wonderful bird. This is a savage predator, but one that is also very protective of its family and will often nest for life.

This bird is not very aggressive to humans and thankfully there are plenty still thriving in the wild.

This bird has a very unique mating pattern, usually only laying anywhere between 2 – 6 eggs in one clutch, which is quite small for any number of birds. You can expect this bird to have everything that it needs to survive an aggressive winter.

So what is the profile of this bird? How do they fare in the winter seasons? What are the mating patterns? How do they call their mates and their chicks? What are the nesting habits of these birds? How long do they live on average? How aggressive can they be to humans?

Well, if you want to know the answers to these questions and a whole lot more, then we would suggest that you keep reading.

We have everything that you need to know about this bird, from calls and diet to random fun facts and reproductive behavior. Keep reading to find out more about the pied harrier!


This bird is grey in appearance with a much longer body than some of the other harriers that you might find out in nature. It has a downy brown-grey set of feathers on the back with a much darker brown along the tail.

The adult pied harrier has a white breast which helps you to identify it in the wild. The young chicks tend to have lighter feathering, although this will get darker as they get older. This bird also has forward-facing eyes and has a similar look to an owl.

The reason why it has evolved forward-facing vision is to help it with hunting.

This bird is not as big as some of the other birds of prey, although they still have a very large wingspan in proportion to their body. This bird likes hunting very small mammals such as rabbits, squirrels and other smaller birds of prey.

Male Vs Female

The female of this species is typically larger than the male, with a much lighter grey feathering and a low color on the breast. They also come with a whiter coloring on the rump.

Female pied harriers also resemble Pallid and Montague harriers, although they have paler underwing and dark barring on the back.

The male has a much darker head than the female, with black shoulders and wingtips. This beast has vivid yellow eyes and cere, which will make it easy to spot when out in the wild. The males and females have a silvery belly, breast and forewing.

Are They Aggressive?

These birds are not really that aggressive to humans, although there have been reports of the occasional attack, this is largely due to the fact that humans are getting too close to the bird’s nest.

The only time you will see a pied harrier behavings aggressively is when they are hunting their prey. 

What Adaptations Do They Have?

These animals have plenty of adaptations, which makes them one of the most deadly predators that you can find in the wild. They have retractable claws that they use to carry their prey across long distances.

They also use a hooked beak that helps them to sever the bones of their prey from the flesh.

This animal also has developed a larger wingspan that helps it to hover on the breeze. The reason for this is that they can scan the forest floor to look for prey.

Having this ability to stay completely still in the air will also not give its position away to predators.

Breeding/reproduction Behaviour

The breeding season for these birds usually lasts for around half a year, starting in around June and ending towards the end of the fall.

These seasons will usually be dependent on how warm the climate is. The warmer that it is then the longer the birds will want to reproduce.

These birds will usually mate for life, with the male usually sticking around to help feed the chicks and make repairs to the nest. This bird will usually lay around 2 – 6 eggs, although some of these chicks might not survive past infancy. This is a process called siblicide.

Siblicide is when the stronger sibling will die during the early days of hatching, however, this process is actually helpful for the young chicks surviving past infancy.

This way they will grow much stronger, taking a lot of the food that would have gone to their bigger brothers and sisters.

Their Calls/Sounds

These birds will often use bird calls to establish their territory. You’ll often find that these birds emitting a sort of high-pitched yipping sound. The female will often issue an attraction call to a potential mate when they are ready to breed.

The chicks will often let out an even higher-pitched call to arouse the attention of their parents, usually for food.

What Do They Eat? (Diet)

Pied Harrier

These birds live on a wide variety of creatures, often eating lizards, amphibians and small insects. It has also been known to eat smaller birds, although this is not as common.

Pied harrier chicks will often be given raw meat, which they will easily be able to feed on from a very young age.

Where Do They Live? (Habitat)

These creatures can usually be found in dense, humid forest environments, often nestling in the trees to hunt for various creatures. They can be found roaming the mountains and steep cliff sides of Pakistan and the Philippines.

This bird is also visible in places like North Korea and other Asian countries. This bird will prefer to build its nests in the high trees, where it has a good vantage point for prey and will keep their chicks away from predators.

What Are Their Nesting Habits?

This bird will often build its nests on high cliff sides or steppes, which are very important for keeping their babies out of the way of predators.

They often build the nest from large bare branches and grass, which is often replaced by the female to rid the nest of unwanted insects and bacteria.

How long Do They Live? (Lifespan)

This bird does like to live fast and tight, although the average lifespan for this animal is anywhere between 11 and 12 years old.

What Predators Do They Have?

These animals don’t really have any predators and are themselves considered apex predators.

The most common threat to this animal are humans, which demolish large areas of this creature’s habitat and have been the cause of the steady decline in numbers.

What Are Their Feathers Like?

These animals have brown, grey and white feathers, all of which are located in very distinct areas. The grey feathers are found on the back of this bird, with the vivid white plumage making it all but invisible on a clear day to anyone on the ground.

What Does Their Poop Look Like?

This animal has long and stringy white poop. If you are ever wandering through the woods and want to see some signs of this magnificent creature, look for stringy white poop collected at the bottom of a tree trunk.

The chances are that you’ll be under the nest of a pied harrier bird.

Do They Migrate?

These birds will usually migrate to places like India when the weather gets colder. A lot of these birds can be found in Western India.

Montagu and Pallid harriers are usually found throughout India, although the Eastern Marsh harriers are usually found around the West part of the country.

Conservation Status

This creature is low on the endangered species list, with a conservation status of ‘least concern’. The one major factor that has affected the population of these animals is the encroachment of human beings onto their territory.

Decimation of forest habitat to make way for housing is also another reason why this animal has dwindled in numbers since the 70s.

There are currently thought to be around 10,000 pied harriers currently available in the wild. This makes them a moderately endangered species.

Fun Facts

The word ‘harrier’ is derived from a Greek word that means ‘to circle’, which is derived from the bird’s flight pattern.

A mlae will often display its plumage in flight to attract a female, sometimes using its unique cry to get their attention.

If one bird in a pairing dies, the widow will often go and find a mate very quickly for the next breeding season.