Atlas of nesting birds in Bulgaria

Montagu’s Harrier

(Circus pygargus)

Category of conservation concern (IUCN, 2020) – Least Concern

Population size: 2020: 291-481 pairs (2007: 220-270 pairs)

Distribution pattern

Widespread and numerous breeding species in the Upper Thracian Plain. In the rest of the country very rare and locally distributed. In the Thracian Plain, it is most numerous in the Stara Zagora, Yambol, Sliven and Karnobat Districts. In Western Bulgaria, single pairs are observed in the regions of Dragoman, Slivnitsa and Radomir, and in the Danubian Plain – in Lom, Kozloduy (Zlatiyata) and in the lowlands around Veliko Tarnovo. Breeds singly or in small groups of 2 – 5 pairs. Favoured breeding sites are lower areas in fields sown with wheat or other crops, wastelands overgrown with grass, meadows, saline steppes, sometimes near small water bodies.

Population estimation for the period 2013 – 2020: During the period 2013-2020, the species was not established as breeding in 65 squares, mainly in Northern and Western Bulgaria, but was found in 50 new squares, mainly in the Upper Thracian Plain. In the core area of distribution in our country, the species is increasing and occupying new territories. The decrease is in areas where in the past it was rare and few in number and a large part of the mapped squares were of low reliability for its breeding.

Population size in Special Protection Areas of Natura 2000: 41-70 pairs (only 14,5 % of the population). The highest numbers have been registered in the Special Protection Areas “Sakar” (33-56 pairs) and “Kamenski Bair” (2-3 pairs).

Big size map

Breeding distribution 2013 – 2020 – The distribution and the estimation of the population size of the species for the period 2013 – 2020 is presented –

Comparative distribution of the species compared to the first breeding birds atlas (Iankov, 2007): Breeding locality until 2007 | Breeding locality until 2007, confirmed after 2015 – | New breeding locality after 2015. – The breeding localities after 2015 are identified on a base of raw data from


Breeds predominantly in crops and other (annual) grass crops, humid grasslands, riparian and spring wetlands, less often in water fringe vegetation near standing fresh waters or running waters.

Trends in population changes for the period 2013-2020

Short-term trend of population size:


Long-term trend of population size:


Short-term trend of distribution:


Long-term trend of distribution:



Destruction of nests during harvest and other agricultural activities. Predators threatening eggs and chicks in the nests. Disturbance in the breeding area. Mortality from collisions with cars on busy roads. Poisoning with rodenticides used in agriculture.

Girgina Daskalova, Dimitar Demerdzhiev, Petar Shurulinkov