The Common Buzzard – Buteo buteo is a hawk and the most common bird of prey 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).