The steppe harrier is a medium-sized bird. Its body length is 45 cm, the maximum weight is up to 500 grams.
The steppe harrier has a characteristic feature - a discreet facial disc that frames the face and partly the neck. The species has a pronounced sexual dimorphism - the coloration of males and females is different. The male steppe harrier has a gray back, and the cheeks and eyebrows are white. The lower part of the body is white, the eyes are yellow.
The “dress” of adult females is more interesting. Here, in the upper part of the body, brown feathers and a red border are noted along the edge of the wings. The tail is smoky, almost ashy, brown feathers are present - they are crossed by a white stripe. The iris of the female's eyes is brown.
The species is common in the southern part of Russia. The components of the nesting area include three zones:
- optimum: steppes, forest-steppe and semi-desert of Eurasia,
- sporadic distribution: south of the forest zone in Europe and the northern desert of Kazakhstan,
- episodic breeding infestations: Northern and Western Europe.
Within the Russian territory, the steppe harrier inhabits most of the western, northern and eastern parts of the range. At the end of the nineteenth to the first half of the twentieth centuries. The steppe harrier was widespread from the Ciscaucasia and the south of the European part in the west to Southwestern Transbaikalia in the east.
Since the 50-60s, it almost completely disappeared in the southern regions of the steppe zone of Russia: in the Ciscaucasia, in the Lower and Middle Don, in the North-Western Caspian region. Currently, the bird comes to these places for nesting invasions, but not every year. For nesting, he chooses places with an increased number of mouse-like rodents, - this was noted in 1988 in the Middle Don.
Sparse, isolated nesting sites have been preserved in the northern steppe zone and in the forest-steppe of the European part of Russia. Some vapors penetrate to the south of the forest zone. In the second half of the 60s, the steppe harrier was a common nesting bird in the forest plantations of the semi-deserts of the Volga-Ural interfluve. There are no up-to-date data from this area.
In Asia, nesting is known in the steppe Cis-Urals and in the south of Western Siberia, in the Barabinsk steppe. Further in the east, the species penetrates to the Minusinsk Basin, but throughout the south of Central Siberia it is extremely rare and irregular.
The European part of the range has undergone a large reduction, the sporadic distribution in the marginal parts, especially in the east, has increased.
The bird inhabits various types of flat and hilly landscapes of the forest-steppe, steppe and semi-desert zones. In the European part of the range, it is found in the southern regions of the forest zone. Prefers forbs-grasses, fescue-feather-grass and wormwood-grasses steppes with mesophilic biotopes: forb-shrub hollows, meadow depressions, overgrown floodplains of streams, rivers and lakes.
In the forest zone, inhabits large meadow areas and forest glades. Nests are built in places with good protective conditions - often in flooded areas of floodplains. Far from water, it settles in rare exceptions. In semi-desert, it nests in forest glades within wide forest belts.
In the last decade, the settlement of the steppe harrier has been noted in the European part of the range, where the natural breeding biotopes of the species have been practically destroyed. On migration, the species is found in a variety of conditions of lowland landscapes. In the mountains - along wide river valleys.
The population size is 20,000 pairs, in Russia 4,000 - 5,000 pairs nest, in the southern region - from 10 to 100 pairs.
During migrations in the 1930s, the species was common throughout the mountainous part of the Northwestern Caucasus; in the 1990s, it was found singularly in the mountains. On the Black Sea coast, it was a numerous representative of the genus during migration, in subsequent years it was rarely observed.
Five birds could be recorded at a time in the central part of the region - as of November 16, 1963. At present, single individuals are found in the region.
Limiting factors include:
- deterioration of nesting and feeding conditions,
- infection of the species with blood parasites.
The steppe harrier is included in the IUCN-96 Red List, Appendix II of CITES, Appendix II of the Bonn Convention, Appendix II of the Bern Convention, Appendix of the agreement concluded between Russia and India on the protection of migratory birds. Protected in Altai, Khopersky, Central Black Earth and Orenburg steppe reserves.
To preserve the species, it is necessary to search for areas with a consistently high breeding population of the predator. In these places, protected areas or specialized reserves should be organized. The most promising in this respect are the regions of the optimum in the eastern part of the range - dry steppes of the Trans-Urals and Western Siberia.
Important! A regional action plan for the conservation of the steppe harrier in the Krasnodar Territory should be developed.