Eurasian Buzzard

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Common Name: Eurasian Buzzard
Scientific Name: Buteo buteo

Size: 16-23 inches (40-58 cm); Wingspan: 43-54 inches (109-136 cm)

Habitat: Eurasia and Africa; breeding populations located on the Atlantic Islands of Cape Verde, the Azores, Canaries and Madeira, east through most of Europe, northern and central Asia, as far as Japan. Populations in Britain, southern Europe, Turkey, the Caucasus, Japan, and on the smaller islands are resident throughout the year. Populations from other parts of the common buzzard’s range are either partially or completely migratory, with those breeding in the northernmost regions making extremely long, southward journeys to overwinter in Africa, Israel, the Arabian Peninsula, India, China and Indochina. Migration is strictly diurnal, and also often follows mountain ranges and ridges.

It breeds in woodlands, usually on the fringes, but favors hunting over open land. Birds tend to occur singly or in pairs, sometimes forming small family groups at roosts. However, they can migrate in groups, and as birds avoid sea crossings (and even freshwater bodies) as far as possible.

Status: Least Concern. Global population: 710,000 to 1,200,000 adult individuals, with an increasing population trend. In the U.K., it suffered a significant reduction in available prey in the 1950s when a myxomatosis epidemic killed off 99% of the rabbit population. The most important historical threat though has been from persecution, including through poisoned bait traps, with pesticides and habitat loss also causing some declines. It is highly vulnerable to the impacts of potential wind energy developments

Diet: In the breeding range in northern, eastern and central Europe, voles are the most important prey, and other small rodents, birds, frogs, and insects are also taken. Buzzards also feed on carrion and invertebrates, including earthworms). In the winter range in southern Africa, prey includes rodents, lizards, and insects. Most prey are captured after a descent from a perch, but this species also soars to locate potential food, and it also hovers like a kestrel.

Nesting: While sexes are alike, females are noticeably larger than males. The plumage can vary from almost pure white to black, but is usually shades of brown, with a pale 'necklace' of feathers. The upperparts are darker then the underparts, and the wingtip and trailing edge of the wing are also noticeably darker than the rest of the wing feathers. Both the tail and flight feathers are barred, and the throat and breast may be streaked.

They are fiercely territorial and dominant displays of aggression will normally push off interlopers. Pairs mate for life. To attract a mate or impress his existing mate, the male performs a ritual aerial display before the beginning of spring. He will rise high up in the sky, to turn and plummet downward, in a spiral, twisting and turning as he comes down. He then rises immediately upward to repeat the pattern; this is known as “roller coasting”.

Buzzards build a large platform stick nest lined with smaller sticks and green foliage. It is usually placed in a tree, but sometimes is placed on rock ledges or on quarry faces. The clutch size, in most of its range, is 2-4 eggs, which are white with brown markings. The incubation period is 28-30 days.

Cool Facts: The Eurasian Buzzard is also known as the Common or European Buzzard.

There are many subspecies of Buzzards. They fall into two groups; Western and Eastern:

  • Western:
    • B. b. buteo: most of Europe
    • B. b. rothschildi: Azores
    • B. b. insularum: Canary Islands
    • B. b. arrigonii: Corsica and Sardinia
    • B. b. menetriesi: Caucasus
    • B. b. harterti: Madeira
  • Eastern:
    • B. b. vulpinus (known as the “Steppe buzzard”): Eurasia: migrant breeder
    • B. b. burmanicus (known as the “Himalayan buzzard”): Himalayas and western China
    • B. b. japonicus: Japan: resident
    • B. b. toyoshimai: Izu Islands and Bonin Islands
    • B. b. oshiroi: Daito Islands

This 3D Model is found in Songbird ReMix Birds of Prey Volume II: Hawks of the Old World

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