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  • Author: Ahmad J. Al-Azawi x
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Abstract

There is scarce information on the migration patterns and population size of the Eurasian marsh harrier (Circus aeruginosus) in Iraq in general and in the southern Mesopotamian wetlands in particular. From February 2018–April 2019, a total of 11 field expeditions were conducted in the Central Marshes (219,700 ha), one of the major Mesopotamian wetlands and Iraq’s National Park, a RAMSAR and UNESCO site. Two of the field survey objectives were to determine the spatial and temporal distribution and estimate the population size of the migratory/wintering Eurasian marsh harrier in the Central Marshes. Distance sampling on three line-transects covering a study plot of 40,000 ha was conducted. Among other wintering Circus harriers, the Eurasian marsh harrier was the most abundant species with a total of 93 individuals recorded. The estimated species densities were 0.0042–0.035 individuals/ha, and the estimated size of the Eurasian marsh harrier migratory population in the Central Marshes was 922.7–7,689.5 individuals. Moreover, the migration phenology and breeding status of the Eurasian marsh harrier in the Central Marshes were investigated. Our efforts did not confirm the breeding of this species during recent years, or since the inundation of the Mesopotamian wetlands in 2003. Furthermore, hunting and trapping were identified as major threats affecting the species which need urgent conservation action.