Species Articles - Common Buzzard

Common Buzzard

…often turned into other species!

“I’ve seen an osprey on a post at the bottom of a field.”

“There’s been an eagle on a Dartmoor tor…”

“I saw a Rough-legged Buzzard hovering over the marshes.”

“The Goshawk was sat in a tree beside the road.”

“It was a Honey Buzzard because it had a long closed tail.”

But what was that bird of prey?

One of the most common emails the Devon Recorder receives is about strange birds of prey that people have seen around the county such as quoted above.

Most observers inform us that they know Buzzards and that this bird was definitely not that species. Whilst it is sometimes difficult to assess a description, virtually every emailed or posted photograph that has been sent to the recorder has proved the strange bird of prey to be a Common Buzzard.

Although most observers (even experienced birdwatchers) have seen many Buzzards they are often caught out by the highly variable plumage and flight. Raptor enthusiast and photographer Mark Darlaston has kindly put together a selection of photos showing just how variable the Common Buzzard can be, and why it is so easily misidentified as something more unusual.

Some Common Buzzard facts

  • This is by far Devon’s most numerous raptor, probably with a county population in excess of 1,600 pairs.
  • Common Buzzard are very variable in plumage, because we are lucky to have so many, we get an incredible variety.
  • Common Buzzard can be as white underneath as an Osprey – and sometimes more so!
  • Common Buzzard does hover – a lot!
  • Common Buzzard has a very varied diet. Hence they can be seen feeding on invertebrates in fields, catch birds (up to the size of a Woodpigeon) or mammals (up to the size of a Rabbit), reptiles (including snakes), amphibians and will often eat carrion.
  • Common Buzzard regularly soars with wings held flat (particularly young birds).
  • Common Buzzards do migrate.

Here is a selection of bird varying from typical plumaged birds, to birds in moult and with more variable plumage combinations:

Mike Langman and Mark Darlaston
25th January 2010

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