Nearly wiped out in the early 1900s, the Buzzard is now the UKs most common bird of prey, seen everywhere from farmlands to woodlands.
Close up of the head of a Buzzard
Buzzard soaring through the sky
Buzzard swooping over a meadow, UK
Family:Kites, hawks and eagles
51cm to 57cm
113cm to 128cm
550g to 1.3kg
The Buzzard is fairly easy to identify, although the species is highly variable in plumage.
Buzzards are stocky raptors with broad wings and large feet with long talons. They are usually dark brown above, with varying amounts of paler plumage on their undersides. They have yellow legs and ceres (bill bases). The bill tip is black, and they have light to dark brown eyes.
Plumage varies considerably among individual Buzzards, and they are often classified as pale, intermediate, and dark morphs.
Seen from below, all flying birds have five dark primary feathers visible on each wing tip, and the trailing edge of each wing is usually dark. Their barred tail is fanned out in flight, and each wing is lifted slightly to form a 'V-shaped' profile.
Close up of a Buzzard perched on a branch
Female Buzzards are usually larger than males, although they appear very similar in other respects. You may be able to distinguish between them when a pair is perched together, but behavioural differences during nesting can be more reliable.
Juvenile Buzzards resemble adults but are paler with streaked (not barred) underparts.
These birds could be mistaken for Honey Buzzards, Marsh Harriers, and Red Kites. Read this guide to birds of prey in the UK for a closer look at those species.
Common Buzzard in flight
The Buzzard is highly variable in weight, although their length and wingspans are fairly constant. These are large birds of prey, much bigger than a Kestrel but significantly smaller than a Golden Eagle.
These birds have a body length of 51 to 57 centimetres. Their tails are about 21cm long, their bill is just over 2cm long, and their lower legs are approximately 7.5cm long.
Adult male Buzzards weigh 427 to 1183 grams, depending on the individual and the time of year. Females are about 15% heavier at 486 to 1364 grams.
The Buzzard has a wingspan of 113 to 128 centimetres. Males are smaller on average.
Buzzards are the most common bird of prey in the UK
Buzzards produce a drawn-out ‘kee-aaah’ call that lasts about a second. This cat-like call is often the first sign of their presence as they soar above.
Buzzards call for a variety of reasons. They vocalise when chasing other Buzzards out of their territory, when alarmed by humans or predators, and when arriving back at their nest.
Andrew Harrop, XC521622. Accessible at www.xeno-canto.org/521622.
The Buzzard is an opportunistic hunter that eats a variety of prey animals. Continue reading to learn more about their diet in the UK.
Buzzards are purely carnivorous, although they are not fussy about choosing their prey. Voles and other rodents are their major prey source, but they will eat a variety of animals, including invertebrates and carrion when available.
The Buzzard is known to eat the following animals:
Check out our complete guide on the diet and feeding behaviour of a Buzzard.
Both male and female Buzzards feed their chicks strips of meat and other manageable morsels. The male provides food for the first two weeks, but the female brings most food after the first month. The young will be fed periodically for up to two months after leaving the nest.
Common Buzzard with prey
Buzzards are widespread and occur in several habitats. Continue reading to learn where you might spot these common raptors.
Buzzards are habitat generalists. Look out for them in farmland, woodland, moorland, and even towns and cities.
Buzzards breed throughout the United Kingdom and the eastern half of Ireland. Elsewhere, this widespread species ranges east as far as Mongolia and south to the southern tip of Africa.
Buzzards spend much time watching for prey from prominent perches like fence poles, pylons, and trees.
They are not particularly nimble on the ground, although they often perch in arable fields and meadows to feed. These birds of prey are comfortable in flight and spend extended periods soaring, often hundreds of meters above the ground.
Buzzards can be found across a range of habitats, but are more common in farmland, woodland and moorland
The Buzzard is not rare in the UK. In fact, they are the most common bird of prey in the region and an everyday sighting for many people. There were an estimated 63,000 breeding pairs in the UK in 2016.
You can see Buzzards throughout the United Kingdom, although they are most common in the Southwest, Wales, Scotland, and the Lake District.
Given their large wingspans, buzzards are adept at riding thermals and can therefore most often been seen on warm sunny days circling in the sky above.
Their wings form a shallow V-shape when soaring. Buzzards are known as lazy birds, so they will often be found perched on pylons or telephone poles, watching out for prey when they are not gliding through the air.
The unique cat-like sound of their call is also a giveaway that they are nearby.
Close up portrait of a Buzzard
According to an International Bird Strike Committee study, the common buzzard can reach speeds of up to 28 mph and fly at an average height of 400 metres - but have been known to reach heights of 1,000 metres.
The Buzzard has made a remarkable comeback in the United Kingdom, with numbers rebounding from a low of just 1000 breeding pairs in the early 20th century. Keep reading to learn about their threats and conservation status.
The Buzzard can live for at least 28 years, although their average life expectancy is much lower at about eight years.
Healthy adult Buzzards have few predators. However, injured and sick individuals may fall prey to various carnivores. Animals like foxes and wild cats could potentially hunt healthy adults, and Golden Eagles would have no problem dispatching these smaller raptors.
The Buzzards is protected by the Wildlife and Countryside Act of 1981.
The Buzzard is not an endangered species. They have a green conservation status in the United Kingdom and are listed as a ‘Least Concern’ species according to the IUCN (International Union for the Conservation of Nature).
Buzzard coming in to land
Buzzards nest in every county of the UK and typically build their nests in trees and cliffs. Both males and females work together to construct the nest, which can measure up to 1.5 meters across.
Check out our comprehensive guide on Buzzard nesting for more information.
Buzzards usually lay two to four eggs that measure 55 millimetres long and 44 millimetres wide on average. Their eggs are white with red-brown markings.
Buzzards form long-lasting pairs, and they usually mate for life. They often use alternate nests each year within their nesting territory, although there is a record of a single nest used for thirteen consecutive years.
Common Buzzard nest with eggs
Common Buzzard chicks
The Buzzard is generally non-aggressive, although attacks on humans have been recorded. Avoid approaching their nest during the breeding season to minimise the chance of aggressive interactions.
These birds may be aggressive towards their own species when chasing intruders from their territory. They will also fight with other Buzzards, Crows, Magpies, and other birds of prey like Red Kites when feeding on animal carcasses.
Buzzards usually sleep in the safety of tall trees.
It is not unusual to see Buzzards perched in fields, sometimes in good numbers. They are attracted by worms and other ground invertebrates, often after rain or ploughing operations.
A pair of buzzards fighting
Buzzards are highly migratory in many parts of their global range, although they are resident throughout the year in the United Kingdom. Most individuals stay within an area of a hundred kilometres.
Buzzards are native to the United Kingdom and are present throughout the year. They were absent from much of the eastern UK for upwards of a century, but have since made a strong comeback.
Close up of a Buzzard on the grass
The buzzard is now safely established in all parts of the UK. However, this was not always the case, and in fact, the species was nearly wiped out in the 1960s due to the use of pesticides in agriculture.
The buzzard is highly adaptable and can survive in varied habitats, from forest and farmland to mountainous landscapes. There is currently thought to be approximately 79,000 breeding pairs in the UK.
The collective nouns to describe a group of Buzzards are as follows:
Buzzards can soar at heights of several hundred meters while expending very little energy. They use thermal updrafts and their large, broad wings to stay airborne for long periods while flapping their wings very little.
Like so many other birds of prey, their eyesight is extraordinary and they can watch for food from such great heights while remaining barely visible to their unsuspecting victim on the ground below.
The Buzzard may not have the speed of hunters like the Peregrine Falcon, but they are powerful in flight nonetheless. They can reach speeds of 28 miles per hour in level flight but are much faster when swooping down on their prey. The similarly built Red-Tailed Hawk of America can reach up to 120 miles per hour when diving.
Crows regularly mob Buzzards and other birds of prey to drive them away from the area. However, the tables can turn as Buzzards may catch and kill crows and other birds from the corvid family.
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