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Japan-Common or Rough Legged buzzard?

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Old Sunday 9th December 2007, 07:55   #1
HokkaidoStu
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Japan-Common or Rough Legged buzzard?

Any thoughts on this/these buteo species I saw this afternoon? It was in south Hokkaido. Another birder reported a Rough Legged Buzzard and I went to the area it was supposed to be and found this/these bird(s). It may be the same individual but I saw it/them in slightly different places about 15 minutes apart and as you can see in rather different circumstances. One was in flight, the other perched atop a roadside pole.

I'm unfamiliar with Rough Legged Buzzard (I've never seen one before) but they are known to occur in small numbers in winter in these parts. Common Buzzard are, well, common and often rather pale.

I only got a view from the tail underneath. The bird perched on top of the pole flew off as I was getting out of the car, chased by crows before I could get my binoculars on it. The bird in flight did hover a bit (though I've seen Common Buzzards do it often).

I've checked the Collins Guide and a couple of Japanese photo guides and am none the wiser. I need an expert opinion.......

Amy thoughts/opinions would be most welcome.
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Old Sunday 9th December 2007, 08:39   #2
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The lack of feathers on leg are more indicative of common buzzard, even if I would agree that the plumage looks very much like a rough-legged buzzard. But there is so much variation in the plumage of common buzzards, that I not make that the most important critera. So my vote is common buzzard.
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Old Sunday 9th December 2007, 09:34   #3
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You are right to be careful with claimed Roughlegs out there- the wintering Common Buzzards in northern Japan show exactly that combination of dark head markings and paler body, especially the dark moustachial and dark throat. It all gives a rather Roughleggy impression, especially on a bird hovering over snow. But it is a Common Buzzard- amongst other things note the warm colours and the dark on the throat not straying onto the upper chest- here's a similar bird from 2005, which was pretty typical of a dozen Commons.
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Old Sunday 9th December 2007, 09:44   #4
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Thanks for the replies. Have to say I had my doubts about this one (especially the bird in flight). I do see some very pale Buzzards here in winter that always make me think of Rough Legged but I've never been certain enough to actually clinch a positive ID.

Of course there may well have been a geniune Rough Legged Buzzard in the area that I missed.......unfortunately I won't be able to go there until after Christmas.
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Old Sunday 9th December 2007, 13:49   #5
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Hey Stu

Shame it wasn't a Rough-legged. I have still only seen 1 in Japan, at Kiritappu many years back.

If you see the tail from above and below it is all white and the tail edge is white, with broad black tail bar in adult females with a second thinner tail band on males. Juveniles have thicker black tail bands with sone whte on the tips and again are white above as well. Buzzard always has a dark tail above.

The larger dark carpal patches are also diagnostic and the primaries and secondaries are dark edged making the rest of the priamries and secondaries look very bright white.

Also on the upperside of the wings Rough-legged tend to have a lot of white on the primaries.

Ed is right about birds in Hokkaido looking superficially like Rough-legged as many are so pale, but they are rarely as pale as Rough-legs..The back and coverts can often be very white or mottle white on Rough-leg.

The juvenile Rough-legs always have very pale heads (sometimes mantle) and upper breast with brown on the lower belly.

The amount of black on the head is variable on adult Rough-legs, the 'kamchatkaensis' race tends to have darker head and throat, similar to the North American race, but it is the rarer subspecies in Japan. The 'menzbieri' race is the commoner subspecies with variable amounts of black on the throat and breast.

Where was the Rough-Legged reported Stu?

I have heard of at least two birds this winter in Western Japan and there were three reported in South Korea recently, so there may be more in this part of Japan than usual.

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Old Sunday 9th December 2007, 14:37   #6
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Hi Sean.

It was reported at Ono (just outside Hakodate)...........I say 'reported' actually I merely bumped into a local lady I sometimes see birding around town and whilst chatting to my wife she said she'd seen a RL Buzzard the day before...........apparently some other birders saw it too but I'm kind of out of the loop as far as these things are concerned..........
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