When adult, the gender of Western Marsh Harriers (Circus aeruginosus) is determined on the basis of the presence of gray feathers on the wing and on the tail in the males. However, males of this species in southwestern France have female-like plumages, lacking gray feathers, and thus, gender determination is impossible by using coloration alone. We investigated sex determination using biometric parameters in a study site located in southwestern France. From one to six measurements (body mass, bill length, wing chord length, tarsus length and width, and tail length) were taken from 243 marsh harriers of known gender (156 males and 87 females), marked in the study site, and subsequently re-sighted. Additionally, 30 marsh harrier specimens were measured by two observers to establish within and between observer repeatability values, as well as within bird repeatability for the six biometric parameters. Using quadratic discriminant analysis, we showed that it was possible to sex individuals of this species with >99% accuracy on the basis of only two parameters: bill length and body mass. Actually, using bill length alone provides very good indication of gender (accuracy >96%). These two parameters are also those for which observer and within-bird repeatability values were highest. When we applied the discriminant equation to 648 fledged birds that have been captured so far, the adult sex ratio (percent of males) was 49.1, which did not depart from parity.
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