The Buzzard is a characteristic, broad-winged bird of prey which is fairly widespread across much of western and northern Europe. It breeds across much of western England, Wales and most of Scotland and Ireland. In Continental Europe, Buzzards are commonplace, except in northern Scandinavia, where they are largely absent. The Buzzards in northeastern Europe move south and westwards during the autumn and winter, sometimes in quite large numbers.
The Buzzards’ favourite habitat is mixed woodland adjacent to farmland, giving them the ideal opportunity to nest and feed in close proximity, but they can also be seen in moorland and upland areas. In more rural areas of Britain they can frequently be seen drifting over gardens, and even
above town centres!
Buzzards come in a variety of different plumages, and have a seemingly effortless flight manner, spiralling into the sky. They can often be detected by their cat-like ‘me-uw’.
This Buzzard shows one extreme of their plumage. It is particularly pale on the underparts, with slight brown flecking on the breast sides. The head is noticeably paler than on the typical bird (shown below), with prominent white supercilia and throat contrasting with the brownish ear-coverts.
This familiar view of the Buzzard on an old gatepost shows a typically plumaged individual. Most of the plumage is dark brown, except for paler ear-coverts and a whitish throat and lower-breast patch. The undertail is also marginally paler, usually dark greyish, with finer darker barring. The stout, hooked bill is black with a yellow cere. The eye is dark brown, and the legs and feet are bright yellow, with black claws.
When seen flying towards you, particularly when gliding, the wing profile of the Buzzard is highly distinctive. The wings are always held slightly above body level, with the wing tips slightly upturned.
The broad wings, large head and shortish tail are easily seen when a Buzzard soars overhead. This dark bird shows a number of characteristic plumage features, including the brownish head, breast and belly contrasting with the pale undertail. Notice the distinctive three-toned wings.
This pale bird shows dark carpal patches and wing tips, with a dark trailing edge to the wing and standard dark tail band. Once again notice the paleness of the head, underwing and belly. The brown breast band and flank patches should also be noted.
When seen from above, the Buzzard is a bird of little contrast, although a darker leading edge to the forewing is apparent and a good view reveals a darker trailing edge to the wing as well as the tip of the tail, contrasting with the often paler-looking rump.
Buzzards are good opportunist feeders, killing for themselves or taking full advantage of a death from natural causes. Sadly, this means that this glorious species is susceptible to much persecution from certain people. Poisoned bait is a favourite method of bringing a slow painful death to a splendid bird.