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Buzzard { Birds of Europe }

Updated on June 19, 2015

Pair of Buteo buteo -The 'Common' Buzzard.

Originally posted to Flickr uploaded to CC by Snowmanradio
Originally posted to Flickr uploaded to CC by Snowmanradio | Source


Buteo buteo,formerly Buteo vulgaris belongs to the Accipitriformes order of birds and the family Accipitridae within that order.The scientific name given to the Buzzard is Latin and means falcon or Hawk. In the UK it is on the Green list of Conservation Concern {no current concerns} with an estimated 67,00 pairs in summer. In Ireland too, it is Green listed.

In Europe they are not a species of concern with an estimated population of between 510,000 -700,000 pairs. They breed in Eurasia and the migratory species winter in Southern Asia and southern Africa. They are birds of wood,Moors,Heaths and farmland. During the breeding season they inhabit Scrub,Pasture farmland,Deciduous woods,conifer woods and Moorland.

The Gaelic name for the bird is Clamhan, the Irish Clamhan, Welsh, Bwncath and Croatian-Jastreb misar

Broad winged Hawk { Red Shouldered hawk} .Buteo lineatus

Deb has given me permission to use her image.
Deb has given me permission to use her image. | Source

Red necked Buzzard. Buteo auguralis


What are Buzzards ?

Buteo genus.--In the 'Old world' Buzzard can mean one of several medium sized raptors with a robust body and broad wings. In particular those of the genus Buteo. There are nearly thirty species in the genus and some sub-species. It is interesting to note that birds in this genus are referred to as Hawks in North America.

The species include the Long-legged Buzzard Buteo rutinus,one of the largest species of Buzzard of North Africa, Eastern Europe,West and central Asia east to China. The Rough legged Buzzard' B.lagapus. The Ferruginos hawk,B.regalis. Red shouldered Hawk B.lineatus {pictured above} Swainson's Hawk B.swainsoni, Roadside Hawk B. magnirostris. Red necked Buzzard B.auguralis { Pictured right} The Upland Buzzard B.hemilasius and the Jackal Buzzard Buteo rufofuscus.

There are other species named Buzzard in other genera including the European Honey Buzzard Pernis apivorus that resemble the Buzzards of the Buteo genus but this species specializes in feeding on wasps and bees nests.

Here we review the European often referred to as the Common Buzzard and as always we commence with a description of the species under review.

Common Buzzard

Crossley's ID Guide to Britain and Ireland. Richard Crossley
Crossley's ID Guide to Britain and Ireland. Richard Crossley | Source

Description of Buteo buteo the Common Buzzard

At a glance.---A medium sized raptor {bird of prey} with broad wings,a compact body,short neck, and medium length tail. The bill is short and hooked suitable for eating meat.Often seen sitting on fences and telegraph poles or soaring high in the sky,where it shows a fan shaped tail and spread outer wing feathers. It flies with quick stiff wing beats.

Buzzards are very variable in plumage from very dark brown to very light. Much of the plumage is barred. Adults are brown on the upper parts,body and under-wing coverts ,and show a broad black band on the end of the tail and wing feathers. The rest of the under-wings are whitish and finely barred. Variation in plumage is displayed on both the upper and undersides and some birds can be extremely pale.

In more detail---The plumage of the typical adult male has all the upper parts dark brown, the feathers of the back having a slight gloss and some of them with paler edgings. On the forehead and nape are some white feathers. The wings are blackish brown. The tail dark brown with ten to twelve lighter bars. The under parts are yellowish white,with longitudinal marks and bars of brown.

The tarsi are bare of feathers on their lower half,and yellow. The claws are black,the irides yellowish brown. The cere yellow. The beak a blackish horn colour.lighter at the base.. When seen in flight from below there are two circular markings, one on each wing which give the impression of being large eyes,these are characteristic of the Buzzard.

The females have more white upon the under parts and have generally upper parts lighter in colour. Young birds resemble the female in plumage,but have a reddish edging to their feathers. The variations in plumage are numerous and seem to be independent of age and sex.

Buzzards are large broad winged and relatively short tailed birds ,substantially smaller than eagles and overlapping with the mostly smaller Harriers. They soar with splayed wing tips.

Courtesy of tomb0171. Standard You Tube License

Taken in Germany
Taken in Germany | Source

General and historical information

The Buzzard,after receiving protection, has made a good come back in the UK. I hear or see one on a daily basis,even in semi-urban regions that are surrounded by farmland. This has not always been the case as the bird was subjected to merciless persecution and then from the use of rodenticides which also took their toll on populations. Even during the 1800,s there were concerns and Butler,who knew the bird has Buteo vulgaris,relates -

" The common Buzzard no longer merits the old name of common,for it is only in the extreme west, in parts of Wales, in the Lake district, in Scotland and in Ireland, that the Buzzard may still be met with,a few having survived the merciless persecution waged against all Accipitrine birds. On the coasts of Devon,especially Exmoor, on the rocky coasts of Wales there are still a few pairs nesting on cliffs, but very few compared to fifty years ago,when the Valley of the Rocks at Lynton,six or seven might have been seen soaring in the air at once,and when the bird was well known to Warreners by the name of 'Black eagle',they were trapped by them in numbers when they came after young rabbits"

Seebohm, seems to confirm Butler's fears he wrote " it is very unfortunate for the common Buzzard that it looks like an Eagle. The consequence is that in England where the preservation of game is conducted irrationally, the innocent Buzzard has almost been wiped out by Gamekeepers."

As a rule the Buzzard gives the misleading appearance of being sluggish,remaining perched or motionless for hours at a time, and when flying off moves in a sluggish manner,but in the breeding season it indulges in soaring flights high above the nest,these flights are maintained for a considerable time.

The Buzzard feeds upon young rabbits,field mice,rats,moles ,earth worms, beetles,frogs,glow worms.lizards,small snakes and occasionally small birds picked up from the ground. The cry of the Buzzard has been compared with the mewing of a cat,but it is loud and high pitched.

The birds were also kept in captivity in days gone by and once gain I refer to the observations of Butler who wrote " Buzzards do very well in captivity, but they require plenty of water to bathe in,and fur, in the shape of rats,mice,rabbits etc, must be given with their food."

As an instance of their domestic tendencies,their fondness for raring young birds may be mentioned. In the first volume of the first edition of Yarrell's British Birds ,page 80, there is a vignette representing the Buzzard taking charge of a brood of chickens. This activity occurred at the Chequers Inn at Uxbridge,where a hen Buzzard hatched and brought up a brood of chickens for several years in succession"

It was said that Buzzards lived for number of years if well cared for. In his beautiful book 'Coloured Plates of British Birds' ,Lord Lilford gives the portrait of a Buzzard that was then alive in his aviaries , a very dark bird with a purple bloom upon its foliage, that had been taken more than twenty years from a nest in Cornwall.

Osprey and Buzzard {right}, in flight

Taken in Poland
Taken in Poland | Source

Young nestlings

Taken in Germany. Uploaded to Commons by Slick-o-bot.
Taken in Germany. Uploaded to Commons by Slick-o-bot. | Source

Breeding Nest and Eggs.

Buzzards tend to nest in trees often Beech and Oak are chosen,or on the ledge of a cliff. The nest is very bulky,the hollow in the middle that contains the eggs is about eight inches in diameter. The final lining consists of fresh green leaves. The whole of the structure is about one and a half to two feet in diameter. The foundation is built of large twigs,finished at the top with slender twigs. They are generally placed high up in the tree and if unmolested would be returned to and refurbished every year.

The eggs which number two to three,the latter being the usual set,are more or less heavily spotted and blotched with reddish brown on a buffish or bluish background.Rarely all white eggs are encountered. The first eggs are usually laid in April.

The eggs are incubated by the female,with occasional relief from the male, for a period of thirty four to thirty six days. the young are in the nest for a further forty four to fifty two days,before they fledge. They raise just one brood per season.

Buzzards are very attentive of their young and are known to feed and care for them well after they are able to fly.

Young buzzard near nest



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    • D.A.L. profile imageAUTHOR


      3 years ago from Lancashire north west England


      Hi Deb, thank you your pictures would grace any piece of work. thank you for the picture and the kind comments. Best wishes to you.

    • aviannovice profile image

      Deb Hirt 

      3 years ago from Stillwater, OK

      I'm happy that you wanted to use the picture, Dave. The article was well done, and now I know why you call your hawks buzzards.

    • D.A.L. profile imageAUTHOR


      3 years ago from Lancashire north west England


      Hi, thank you for reading I am glad you enjoyed this one. It seems that the common names on this side of the pond and your side differ. Birds of the Buteo genus are known as Buzzards here while you call them Hawks.. Clear as mud right?

    • moonlake profile image


      3 years ago from America

      Our ugly Buzzards (Vulture) don't look anything like your Buzzards. Your Buzzards look like a pretty Hawk. Enjoyed reading your hub, very interesting.


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