BIRD OF THE MONTH: AUGUST 2006 – BUZZARD

Posted by NH Admin on Tuesday, 1st August 2006, 00:00

BIRD OF THE MONTH: AUGUST 2006

 

Buzzard    Buteo buteo

 

 

 

Photo credits: George Reszeter at birdphotography.co.uk

 

Size

Length = 48-58cm   Wingspan = 110-132cm

 

Physical description

 

Compact body, short head, short neck.

The plumage of buzzards is highly variable, ranging from pale to dark. A not untypical plumage consists of a brown underbody with a pale ‘U’-shaped band across the lower breast.

The wings are broad and rounded, with dark wing-tips and dark feathers along the trailing edge of each wing. The underwings are pale with darker barring and dark ‘wrist patches’. The wings are held in a shallow ‘V’ when soaring. The tail is pale with fine barring, with a dark tip at the end; it has straight sides and sharp corners, and is often spread out in a fan shape.

The male and female have a similar plumage, with the female being larger in size.

 

 

Voice

 

Call: loud, high-pitched ‘pee-ioo’, ‘piii-yay’ or ‘pee-uu’ mewing, regularly described as ‘cat-like’. Often calls when flying. Heard all year round.

 

 

Diet

 

Small mammals e.g. rabbits, voles.

Birds e.g. woodpigeons, crows.

Insects, worms, beetles, reptiles.

Buzzards often eat roadkill and other carrion.

 

Lifespan

Up to 25 years.

 

Habitat

 

Breeding and feeding: areas with forests, trees or crags to build a nest in, and moorland, meadows, marshes or farmland nearby for hunting prey. Hence, buzzards breed mainly in the north and west where this habitat is more likely to be found.

 

 

Geographic range

 

Present throughout the whole UK. Now seen in eastern counties of England after a long absence but do not breed there.

 

 

Migration

 

Most British buzzards spend the whole year here and do not migrate, either to warmer climates during the winter or cooler climates during the summer.

 

 

Conservation status

 

Secure. The number and range of buzzards declined in the last century: they were persecuted, toxic chemicals entered their foodchain, and myxomatosis affected the rabbit population. But (due in part to the bird’s adaptability) they have made a significant comeback recently, recolonising areas where they had been absent for many years. Sadly, persecution from poisoning continues despite it being illegal. Buzzards are thought to predate game birds, but many consider this threat to be over-exaggerated.

 

 

Related species

 

Rough-legged buzzard.

 

 

Where can I see this bird in Northwood / Medham?

 

Above Ridge Copse; the area south of Pallance Farm; Waterclose Copse; Calving Close Copse. Watch out for buzzards being mobbed by rooks above Calving Close Copse.

 

Further afield, buzzards can be seen above Parkhurst Forest and Noke Common.

 

 

Why is this bird worth seeing?

 

 

Buzzards are the largest birds of prey likely to be seen regularly in Northwood and Medham, and they are a fascinating sight as they soar and glide in broad circles in the sky, appearing to hang motionless in the air as they scan for prey.

They can sometimes be seen perching in trees and on fence posts and telegraph poles, watching for mammals in the fields below.

They are quite vocal compared to other birds of prey: listen for the far-carrying ‘pee-uu’ call to alert you to buzzards in the area.

In summer family groups can be seen in the sky: the adults teach the juveniles the tricks of hunting and manoeuvring.

 

The largest number I have seen in the sky at the same time is six, looking south from Medham towards Waterclose Copse. On another occasion I was walking along the public footpath from Pallance Lane to Trafford Farm and unintentionally disturbed a buzzard ahead of me which had killed and was eating a woodpigeon. It flew away to Ridge Copse, leaving its kill behind. It was a little gruesome but thrilling to have been so close to nature at its rawest. I left the area quickly in the hope of causing no more of a disturbance.

 

Because buzzards soar higher than the other birds I see when birdwatching they make me consider what an aerial perspective of the village and its surroundings must be like, in contrast to our usual earthbound view. Knowing that I am looking at a creature in harmony with its environment, and which looks so graceful as it floats on the thermals, makes it very difficult to look away.

It is true that buzzards lack the wow-factor of the eagle or the peregrine: they are not as large or as loaded with symbolism, nor can they dive on their prey with as much speed. But you won’t see eagles above Northwood or Medham, and peregrines are in short supply, so make the most of the buzzards as they circle, mew and hang in the skies above us.

 

 

Binoculars needed?

 

Useful for getting a closer look. Sometimes (in the Medham area) they fly quite low and it is possible to get a good look at the plumage and face with binoculars.

 

 

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