Meet the Monty’s

2011_06_08 PIC - Montagu's Harrier - male (Circus pygargus) 03
Montagu’s Harrier – male (Circus pygargus)

The Montagu’s Harrier is named after George Montagu (1753-1815), who was born in England. It was through his study of harriers that he discovered that the Montagu’s Harrier was breeding in Southern England. He also proved many previously accepted species of birds were invalid due to their summer or winter plumages and because they were males and females of the same species. I suppose in the early days without much study birds such as the harriers were misidentified due to sexual dimorphism of their plumage, or for example breeding and non-breeding plumages at different times of the year, such as is the case for many waders. He was also involved in several first British records such as the Cirl Bunting, Cattle Egret, Little Gull and Gull-billed Tern. He was also the first to describe the Lesser Horseshoe Bat.

2012_07_25 VV - Montagu's Harrier - female (Circus pygargus) 05
Montagu’s Harrier – female (Circus pygargus)

In 1802 he wrote his most famous work, the two volume Ornithogical Dictionary; or Alphabetical Synopsis of British Birds. Birds however were not his only love, but also he had an interest in marine and freshwater ecology. In 1803 he published a work on the history of British marine, land and freshwater shells describing 470 species of molluscs including 100 new species. Quite a job in those days before the internet.

Montagu's Harrier - male (Circus pygargus) 06
Montagu’s Harrier – male (Circus pygargus)

Apart from having his name associated with these beautiful birds, the Montagu’s Harrier, which are quite common in the cereal fields around Ciudad Real, he also had his name associated with two fish, a blenny and a snapper.

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Montagu’s Harrier – female (Circus pygargus)

After all this work, the man died of tetanus by stepping on a nail at his home. His collection of birds was bought by the British Museum and some 200 or so are housed at the Tring Museum. The annotated copies of his two groundbreaking books were left to the Linnean Society.

2011_05_24 PIC - Montagu's Harrier - male (Circus pygargus)
Montagu’s Harrier – male (Circus pygargus)

Sometimes it’s interesting to look up why a bird is called what it is. It must be a great honour to name something so that your name will survive. Hopefully this vulnerable species will survive also through changes in agricultural methods. (Information taken from and paraphrased from Wikipedia)

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