Buzzard

Buteo buteo

51-57cm

Appearance

A burly raptor with broad wings (the feathers at their tips appear finger-like), a short neck, and a wide tail. The plumage can vary from all dark to white, though these are rare examples; majority of birds are brownish. Females are larger than males, but taking into account the variation in pattern, the sexes are otherwise similar. The breast usually has a pale crescent separating it from the throat and belly and is intricately barred. When flying, the wings have a dark trailing edge and the tail is darkly banded; wings are held in a 'V' when not beating. Juvenile birds are mostly dark with streaking; they lack the dark tail and wing markings of the adult.

Habitat

Habitats can be quite varied and include open country and farmland with sections of woodland, moorland, and rocky coasts. Nests in woodland or crags.

Character

Buzzards can sit rather still in the air as they scan for prey, and also hover with slow beats of the wings. They often find perches within swooping distance of prey, and also peck the ground in search of worms. Most often seen in solitude or in pairs, although migrating birds in Europe often move in larger numbers.

Food

Diet includes small mammals like voles and rabbits, birds including young pigeons and crows, insects, reptiles, earthworms and carrion.

Breeding

Breeding begins in April or May and birds may use the same nest season after season. Female lays 2 or 3 eggs and adults share the job of incubation (34 days), though the female does the bigger part of it as the male provides food. Hatching takes about a week because incubation starts with the first egg; the disparity in the age of the young means the smallest can be quite vulnerable. After about 50 days the young birds can fly, though they rely on their parents for approximately 40 more days.

Population

Resident Buzzards in Britain and Ireland rarely move further than 50km from their nests. Some migrant birds from Europe arrive in eastern Britain in autumn and stay for the winter. There are up to 79 000 breeding pairs in the UK each year, and 200 in Ireland – this means the Buzzard is the most common raptor in Britain.

Observation Tips

Usually fairly simple to view in western and northern parts of the region, particularly at the beginning of the breeding season in February and March, and again when the young have gained independence, around June to August.

Voice

The year-round call of flying birds in the distance can alert observers to the their presence. Utters a mewing call that sounds like 'pee-ay'.
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