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A bright Pallid future?

Pallid Harrier chicks in the Netherlands in 2017. Photo: Ruurd Jelle van der Leij

In 2017 the first pair of Pallid Harriers to nest in western Europe was reported from the Netherlands (see here). After no further nesting in the Netherlands in 2018 it might have seemed that this was a remarkable and amazing one-off event but the evidence is that Pallids are spreading west, not so slowly but very surely.

This year, Pallid Harriers have nested again in the Netherlands, in the same general area as in 2017. This seems not to be just a flash-in-the-plan.

But that 2017 Netherlands nesting produced a female bird which bred this year – in the first ever Pallid Harrier nest in Spain!

It’s notable that Pallid Harriers seem to be most commonly found nesting in cereal fields in places where this is also the habit of Montagu’s Harrier – but that may just be because people studying Montagu’s Harriers are in a good position to find Pallid Harriers whereas other Pallids go unnoticed.

In the UK our Montagu’s Harrier population is at a low ebb – and some have certainly been shot. North Norfolk doesn’t, I’m told, have nesting Montagu’s Harriers any more.

One wonders what the prospects are for nesting Pallids in the UK in the next few years. I guess it depends on many things, including whether any attempts at nesting are made in cereal fields, like Montagu’s Harriers often do, or on moorlands, like Hen Harriers tend to do. In the spring of 2017 when the Dutch were looking after their first pair of Pallid Harriers this male Pallid was seen for a while in the Forest of Bowland but, it didn’t stay on to breed.

Adult male Pallid Harrier in Bowland, April 2017. Photo: Tim Sarney.

Ben Koks, who studies Montagus Harriers in the Netherlands and is an enthusuiast for Pallids (but then, who isn’t?) reckons that Pallid Harriers will breed in the UK in the next two summers. In fact, he is so confident that he tells me he’ll buy me a good bottle of wine if they don’t. Sounds good, but I’ve told Ben that it would be such a great thing to have Pallids here in the UK that I’ll buy him a bottle of good wine if they do nest here in the next two years!

It seems likely that Ben and I will be testing some wines fairly soon as he will be at the Bird Fair the week after next.

Anyway, here again is that marvellous video of the Pallid Harriers from the Netherlands in 2017.

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