The most common UK bird of prey. The buzzard is easily distinguished from all other species of hawk by its size alone. The wingspan may vary between 48 inches to 60 inches with a body length of some 20 inches. Its plumage is a rich brown, with lighter markings beneath. When gliding and soaring it will often hold its wings in a shallow ‘V’, and shriek to others, often soaring in groups of four or five birds.
The Buzzards’ diet consits mainly of small mammals, also birds, reptiles, large insects, earthworms.
Found mainly in the west and north, it is now starting to appear in the eastern counties. For many years this bird was persecuted by game keepers, who believed that it would take pheasants and partridges. However, in reality it does not bother with game, although if a pullet happens to venture close to where it is lying in wait, it will swoop down on it. The Buzzard has increased in numbers lately, partly as a result of being placed upon the list of protected birds.
It is a slow flier, and rarely catches its prey on the move. The usual hunting tactics are to perch motionless on a branch of a large tree, its markings being excellent camouflage. It is a patient bird, quite content to sit for hours at a time until a young rabbit, a rat or a mouse chances to pass beneath it. Then it will swoop down on to its unsuspecting prey.
Crows often see off a Buzzard, as he flies into their patch; the Crow seems fearless of the larger bird, and will keep on swooping down on the Buzzard, until he is seen off.
Look for birds soaring over wooded hillsides in fine weather, or perched on fence posts and pylons. In Scotland, it is often mistaken for a Golden Eagle, though in reality, the Eagle is less likely to be spotted without many hours searching the distant sky for a dot in the binoculars.