The Raptor Foundation
The Common Buzzard is found throughout Europe & Russia, spreading down to Turkey & the Northern tip of Africa, and to the west as far as the Pacific Coast. Common Buzzards are often found wintering in countries such as the Philippines (where it is a protected species), Hong Kong, Thailand & Japan. Throughout Europe, it is the second most common raptor (the Common Kestrel being the most common).
Persecution of the Common Buzzard started a long time ago in the UK. Henry VIII made egg stealing illegal, but excluded buzzards & James I of Scotland ordered the destruction of all buzzards. Despite this, up until the beginning of the 19th century the Common Buzzard was common throughout the UK. By the middle of that century though, it was eliminated from the Midlands & Eastern counties. By the end of the 19th century it had been eliminated from all but a few areas in the west of the country, becoming extinct in Ireland. The reduction was partly due to the general persecution of birds of prey. The population started to recover from around 1915 to the 1950's, but declined dramatically during the 50's & 60's mainly because of the introduction of myxomatosis, killing 99% of rabbits - one of its main food sources. The population has since started to grow, due to its adaptability in exploiting other food sources (e.g. voles, young birds & small reptiles). There are now around 20,000 breeding pairs in UK, still mainly on the western side of the country though occurring throughout Wales & Scotland. There are breeding & release programs in some areas of the country, amongst others, The Hawk Conservancy run one. The main threat to Common Buzzards in this country is still illegal killing, both by shooting & poisoning.
The preferred habitat of Common Buzzards is open countryside with small areas of woodland or the edges of more densely wooded areas. With decreased persecution, they are often being found closer to populated areas, where they can scavenge waste.
Common Buzzards prey mainly on small rodents & mammals, though they will take reptiles, amphibians, large insects, invertebrates & young birds. They will also feed on carrion, often leading to them being accused of killing such things as new born lambs. Their preferred method of finding prey is 'still hunting', sitting on a post, looking for food. Buzzards will use also wind-hovering due find their prey & are comfortable searching for beetles & earthworms by walking around on the ground. The colloquial name "Dancing Hawk" stems from their habit of landing in open fields (often freshly worked) & dancing up & down - the noise made sounds like rain to worms & makes them rise to the surface then they get eaten by the buzzards. It is not unusual for groups of buzzards to do this at the same time in a single field, I have had reports of up to 40 buzzards in a single field.
Common Buzzards have broad wings & a short tail, these enable soaring flight on thermals & ridge currents. Males, being lighter, are able to rise on thermals faster & reach greater heights than females. One suggested reason for them appearing in unexpected districts is being caught by strong winds whilst thermaling, it being easier to drift with wind than to fly against it.
Common Buzzards usually breed for the first time around at 2-3 years old, though sometimes at one year old, often pairing for life. More often than not, a new nest is built every year fairly high in a tree. The eggs are laid between March & May, usually 2 or 3 eggs at 2 to 3 day intervals. Incubation is done by the female, starting when the first egg is laid, this means that the eggs hatch over a period of about 1 week. The young are able to fly within 7-8 weeks of hatching & are fully independent around 6 weeks later.
The oldest Common Buzzard on record from a European ringing study was 28yrs 9months old.
Common Buzzards are regularly mobbed by crows, rooks, ravens & jackdaws. Buzzards are relatively unmanoeuvrable in the air, the mobbing birds get above the buzzard & force it to the ground, occasionally a small group of larger birds can kill the buzzard, usually with their sharp beaks.
Because of their size & temperament, Common Buzzards are often recommended as a first bird for falconers. The birds do tend to be very lazy & require a lot of hard work, with a lot of regular flying, for the birds to become reasonable hunting birds. For this reason, once the beginner gets more confidence, they tend to want something a bit more exciting (such as the Harris Hawk or Red-Tailed Hawk), which are less lazy & will perform well.
A Wake of Buzzards
Least Concern (LC)
Puttock (also used for Kite & Marsh Harrier)
Barcud (North Wales - throughout the rest of Wales the words refer to the Red Kite)
Mäusebussard (Mouse Buzzard)
tu bao (Dirt Panther)
kuso-tobi (Shit Kite)