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Common Buzzard

From Opus

Photo © by MomoSwitzerland, December 2007
Photo © by Momo
Switzerland, December 2007

Alternative name: Eurasian Buzzard

Buteo buteo

Includes (Western) Steppe Buzzard


[edit] Identification

Juvenile in flight. Photo © by Knud OlsenDenmark, September 2009
Juvenile in flight.
Photo © by Knud Olsen
Denmark, September 2009

50-56cm (19¾-22 in). Variable plumage from very pale to dark brown.
On sitting birds, the dark wings seems to be a constant, and in all but the palest birds, the breast and belly is separated by a pale breast band. Tarsus and feet are unfeathered and yellow, bill is black with yellow cere.
On underside of adult flying birds, flight feathers are pale, lightly barred and has a very dark terminal band (primaries are darker, so that the entire free fingers are black); tail feathers similar . Juvenile birds differ in having the secondaries darker and lacking the darker terminal band. Coverts vary from generally white to mostly quite dark. On birds with white coverts, the wrist mark is reduced to a comma, while this area is mostly concolorous with the coverts in darker individuals. These darker individuals have a pale band around the middle coverts, contrasting with darker feathers both in front and behind it.
Upperside of the birds vary from quite dark brown with very little contrast to pale birds having whitish base of tail, whitish wing coverts (sometimes with white and dark stripes near the flight feathers), white crown and nape, and on extreme individuals, also white mantle. Pale individuals seems more common in north and east, and also seems to be more common among juveniles.

[edit] Flight

Flight profile shows a medium size raptor with length of tail less than width at base of wings, tail with square corners and wings with usually five free fingers. Long distance migrants (eastern subspecies such as vulpinus) generally have relatively longer tail (or maybe narrower wings).

Pale bird. Photo © by johnnyoxygenGigrin Farm, Wales, July 2010
Pale bird.
Photo © by johnnyoxygen
Gigrin Farm, Wales, July 2010

[edit] Distribution

The Common Buzzard has a very wide range, breeding in Europe and Asia and several Atlantic islands.

The species is partly migratory, with some birds wintering as far south as Africa south of the Sahara.

[edit] Taxonomy

Cape Verde Buzzard, Himalayan Buzzard and Eastern Buzzard were formerly included in this species.

[edit] Subspecies

Six subspecies are currently recognized[1]. Often mentioned is the Steppe Buzzard B. b. vulpinus, an eastern European to northern Asian form in which some members are recognizably different from nominate European birds. No major authorities currently recognize this as a full species, even though reports to the opposite effect can be found on the internet.

Subspecies rothschildi, Azores. Photo © by cazeribeiroLagoa das Sete Cidades, Azores, November 2007
Subspecies rothschildi, Azores.
Photo © by cazeribeiro
Lagoa das Sete Cidades, Azores, November 2007
  • B. b. buteo (nominate):
  • B. b. arrigonii:
  • B. b. rothschildi:
  • B. b. insularum :
  • B. b. vulpinus (Steppe Buzzard):
Subspecies vulpinus, Steppe Buzzard. Photo © by NicoleBSharm el Sheikh, Egypt, May 2010
Subspecies vulpinus, Steppe Buzzard.
Photo © by NicoleB
Sharm el Sheikh, Egypt, May 2010
  • B. b. menetriesi :
  • Southern Crimea and Caucasus to northern Iran

[edit] Habitat

Forests, scattered woodland and moorland also increasingly urban edges. Likes hilly areas to provide thermals.

[edit] Behaviour

[edit] Diet

The diet includes rabbits, rodents, ground birds, reptiles and carrion.

[edit] Breeding

Their nest is built from sticks and foliage, sited high up in a tree or on a cliff edge. The 2-3 eggs are incubated by both sexes for 33-36 days; the young fledge about 43-50 days later.

[edit] Vocalisation

Subspecies insularumPhoto © by katastrofaEl Cedro, La Gomera, Canary Islands, February 2019
Subspecies insularum
Photo © by katastrofa
El Cedro, La Gomera, Canary Islands, February 2019

Call: high-pitched mewing.

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[edit] References

  1. Clements, J. F., T. S. Schulenberg, M. J. Iliff, D. Roberson, T. A. Fredericks, B. L. Sullivan, and C. L. Wood. 2018. The eBird/Clements checklist of birds of the world: v2018. Downloaded from
  2. BBC Science and Nature
  3. BF Member observations
  4. Birdforum thread discussing the ageing of Common Buzzard

[edit] Recommended Citation

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