What safari guides should know:
The harriers are easily identified from other raptors because of their unique profile when flying. The wings are not held parallel to the ground as they are with most other raptors when gliding, but rather angled up toward the sky. This is known as holding the wings in the dihedral. By doing this the harrier is not particularly stable in its flight as it quarters over the reed-beds and due to the instability it can change direction and drop onto prey very quickly. This fast reaction is essential because the bird is flying low over reed-beds and reaction times are so much faster than if soaring high above and then stooping on prey way below them.
In general raptor identification is a difficult but vital part of learning to become a nature guide because we as humans are fascinated by other predators and the techniques they use to catch their quarry. Our specialist bird guiding course is ideal for people who want to learn better identification skills as well as gain a much deeper knowledge and understanding of Africa’s birds.
The female Montague’s and pallid harriers are also brown but with strong barring on the tails. These birds also prefer dry, open landscape. The western marsh harrier is most similar but the fine barring on the tail and under-wings of the African marsh harrier species is diagnostic.
Distribution in Botswana:
The African Marsh Harrier is common throughout the Okavango, Linyanti and Chobe areas of Botswana and for this reason an important bird for safari guides to be able to identify. It is less common in the east and absent from the rest of Botswana.
FGASA Level 1 Course Specialist Birding Course