Common Buzzard……whats in a name?



Buzzard – Buteo buteo

The – Buteo buteo is a and the most common in the United Kingdom. The name Buzzard will present no ambiguity to most Europeans but to those speaking English in the “new world” confusion will have immediately set in! The word “Buzzard” in the USA is a broad term for scavenging birds of prey and usually refers to the Turkey Vulture which is quite a different bird altogether.

In the UK and Europe true Buzzards, that is to say Buteo buteo, are a real success story and populations and territories have increased dramatically over the last 25 years. Sadly they do still suffer some persecution, mainly from landowners and people who enjoy shooting as a pastime. They see the Buzzard as a direct threat to their artificially reared and released game birds and the hobby of Pheasant and Grouse shooting.

Close to home on the edge of my region’s largest City, I have a permanent hide situated on the edge of a small wood. When the hide was first erected I had no idea that it was just a few feet away from a Buzzards nest high in a nearby tree, but I did know that I was in the middle of a territory. I saw soaring Buzzards constantly but always high or in the distance. As my summer turned into Autumn the free offerings, in the form of “road-kill” Rabbits and Pheasants that I had been placing daily on a log in front of the hide, suddenly grabbed the attention of the resident birds. I had been waiting patiently quite confident that sooner or later a bird would come down to feed.

One afternoon when I visited, the carcass had been stripped of flesh and I now knew that it was worth sitting it out inside the hide. It was some days and 10 hours later that, as I daydreamed in the hide I noticed a shadow move past the entrance and a glance out almost brought a gasp as I saw my first Buzzard from 15 feet away. It was carefully picking at the Rabbit and taking small pieces of flesh from the body. I trained my camera towards it and that was enough to send it soaring away again. I knew that the next time it came down to feed I would need to be as quiet and careful as I had ever been before. That is just the way it proved and now, some 8 weeks later I am visited by a young Buzzard on almost every trip to the hide.

I have taken to feeding day old chicks which are a by-product of the poultry industry and sold as pet food for herpetologists. The resident Buzzard seems to prefer these small delicacies and will see me arrive. After just a few minutes he will execute a flyover to see if I have left any food and that the coast is clear before swooping down to pick up the chick in it’s talons in full flight To watch a magnificent wild bird of prey with a 5 foot wingspan, swoop in to pick up the free offering never ceases to leave me in awe. On some days he will perch on the nearby fence to check that all is well ( as he did yesterday…. see photo).

Charles Fleming

Charles Fleming

Charles Fleming is a wildlife photographer and nature blogger based in South West England. His blog "Wildlife in a Suburban Garden" has more than 1400 entries and a link to galleries where you can view more than 4000 images from the UK and the rest of the world featuring photographs of more than 500 species. "My aim is to try and put my readers and viewers intimately close to the subject and to share the thrill of watching and photographing birds and wildlife at close quarters".

Charles Fleming

Charles Fleming

Charles Fleming is a wildlife photographer and nature blogger based in South West England. His blog "Wildlife in a Suburban Garden" has more than 1400 entries and a link to galleries where you can view more than 4000 images from the UK and the rest of the world featuring photographs of more than 500 species. "My aim is to try and put my readers and viewers intimately close to the subject and to share the thrill of watching and photographing birds and wildlife at close quarters".

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Iain Gibson

Charles is correct in saying that Buzzards have increased dramatically in the UK over the past 25 years. However, in my part of Scotland, the western side from Argyll south into Ayrshire, the species has had quite a dramatic change of fortune since 2005, and has now declined by over 50% in the past eight years. This hasn’t quite hit the headlines yet, and it tends to be raptor study group enthusiasts who have noticed this change so far. We don’t know the reason for it, but Kestrels have also declined sharply during the same period. It may be a… Read more »

Iain Gibson

Charles is correct in saying that Buzzards have increased dramatically in the UK over the past 25 years. However, in my part of Scotland, the western side from Argyll south into Ayrshire, the species has had quite a dramatic change of fortune since 2005, and has now declined by over 50% in the past eight years. This hasn't quite hit the headlines yet, and it tends to be raptor study group enthusiasts who have noticed this change so far. We don't know the reason for it, but Kestrels have also declined sharply during the same period. It may be a… Read more »

Ken_Billington

Charles, welcome to our blog – congratulations on your outstanding portrait of the buzzard – lucky that your hide was so close to the buzzard’s nest – it must have been quite an experience to photograph the bird whilst feeding – thanks for sharing.