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Occurrence of pale phase Common Buzzards? (1 Viewer)

KenM

Well-known member
Like most of us that live in the UK (and possibly Europe), over the last thirty odd years there has been an unprecedented increase and expansion of CB's into areas where they would hitherto have been classed as rare/uncommon. Virtually all my local birds are of a (dark) brown persuasion however (rarely) I've encountered the pale phase variants which to my eye are quite stunning and from an aesthete perspective can certainly nudge Osprey into second place.

Locally I've seen three examples 2017,2019 and 2021 with three out of area in East Sussex, all five examples have been seen between 2013 to '21 and all between February and May.
As I understand it, the pale phase variant is from the near continent (with Germany and Scandinavia) being the probable points of origin, thus I presume that my five records over eight years (Feb-May) suggest that these birds are mainly Winter visitors to the UK, or is it just a ''timing'' coincidence?

It might be interesting to know (if at all) these variants actually hybridize with the local populations (be surprised if they didn't), and also their frequency of occurrence elsewhere.

Cheers
 

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Sangahyando

Well-known member
While it's an interesting topic, I think it might be better suited for the Birds&Birding subforum.

FWIW, I recently had an individual that was almost entirely white, with dark brown remiges. Certainly looked very suspicious at first glance...
 

jurek

Well-known member
I only heard that pale phase buzzards are more common in areas with less forest, and brown ones in forested localities.

It seemed true at least in Germany, where I saw lots of strange white buzzards - every one different.

BTW, it might be a good project to check whether pale buzzards are indeed more common in areas with less forest cover - using photos accumulated in websites like ornitho or ebird.
 

KenM

Well-known member
I only heard that pale phase buzzards are more common in areas with less forest, and brown ones in forested localities.

It seemed true at least in Germany, where I saw lots of strange white buzzards - every one different.

BTW, it might be a good project to check whether pale buzzards are indeed more common in areas with less forest cover - using photos accumulated in websites like ornitho or ebird.
You may have a point there jurek, certainly worth considering, might this suggestion strike a chord with other observers?

Cheers
 

Farnboro John

Well-known member
In a UK context I've generally noticed more pale Buzzards in the South-west than elsewhere (and that perhaps particularly applied when they were less widespread, perhaps due to more restricted exchange between sub-populations), but I've seen one in the Cairngorms that was pretty much all white and the odd less extreme one in other places.

Our landscape is perhaps too fragmented habitat-wise to make real judgements about open/forested areas.

John
 

KenM

Well-known member
In a UK context I've generally noticed more pale Buzzards in the South-west than elsewhere (and that perhaps particularly applied when they were less widespread, perhaps due to more restricted exchange between sub-populations), but I've seen one in the Cairngorms that was pretty much all white and the odd less extreme one in other places.

Our landscape is perhaps too fragmented habitat-wise to make real judgements about open/forested areas.

John
Thanks John, do you have any dates for your observations (months?). Good point we are more fragmented than the continent thus any true comparison overall would be biased towards the greater land mass.
I was hoping that my personal incidence of occurrence-three sightings in five years, might be borne out elsewhere ie pale phase variants increasing within the UK or indeed on the continent.

Cheers
 

Farnboro John

Well-known member
Thanks John, do you have any dates for your observations (months?). Good point we are more fragmented than the continent thus any true comparison overall would be biased towards the greater land mass.
I was hoping that my personal incidence of occurrence-three sightings in five years, might be borne out elsewhere ie pale phase variants increasing within the UK or indeed on the continent.

Cheers
No, because they are all just Buzzards. I could probably find the date of the white Scottish one to within a day or so, but at the time I wasn't sure whether it was an extremely pale bird or a leucistic/albino one.

Way back I didn't keep notes as much as I do now: even now it tends to be at hobby level rather than relentless lister of everything, so common birds don't necessarily get noted on a normal day, just highlights. Because I like raptors, I might write "Buzzard 6" but splitting them into colour morphs would be more than I can be bothered with.

John
 

KenM

Well-known member
John, I’m certainly not (and never have) been a relentless lister, however I’ve always been interested in “variants” particularly if they have a known area of preference ie Yellow Wagtails, different forms..from different locations.
Knowing that pale phase CB’s are found in fenno Scandinavia and I believe have been increasing in the Low Countries in recent years, I was looking to see if that might be reflected in our fragmented landscape. As a phase of CB (and a rare one for me) I would certainly log them accordingly, however if they are more numerous in a given locale, then not logging them would be easily understood...from my perspective a “real cracker” of a bird.

Cheers
 

Hotspur

James Spencer
United Kingdom
Pale phase Buzzards are really very common in the south west, especially immature birds and arent really noteworthy. I would be surprised if I didn't see one in the south west whereas here in Yorkshire they are unusual but regular. Two local ones at Wykeham Forest and Tophill Low are regularly reported as Rough-legs and Ospreys.
 

KenM

Well-known member
Pale phase Buzzards are really very common in the south west, especially immature birds and arent really noteworthy. I would be surprised if I didn't see one in the south west whereas here in Yorkshire they are unusual but regular. Two local ones at Wykeham Forest and Tophill Low are regularly reported as Rough-legs and Ospreys.
Thanks Hotspur good to know, I’m not surprised that fleeting obscured views might give a wrong impression.
Indeed when I viewed my latest bird (last week) coming through the trees (showing a lot of white) flanked by four Corvids, my knee-jerk was Osprey! until all was revealed.
Interesting that there appears to be a bias towards the West for this variant, when one might have expected it to be from the East?

Cheers
 

Mono

Hi!
Staff member
Supporter
Europe
I lived on Gower, South Wales for ten years and the majority of buzzards were very light, sometimes almost white. Here in the lakes they and browner but with the odd light one.
 

David_

Well-known member
Germany
I remember growing up (small village between Düsseldorf and Mönchengladbach in the Lower Rhine area/Western part of Germany, close to the durch border) all common buzzards were dark brown, sometimes with smaller white patches on the chest. Nowadays basically all buzzards there look like the ones Ken posted and dark brown ones are getting really rare.
Forrest cover or land use hasn’t changed during the last 30 years. Even back than there were only small patches of woodland in an area with intensive agricultural use.
 

KenM

Well-known member
Thanks David, for that information over the stated time frame (30 years). I ran a not disimmilar thread to this two years ago, where Gerdwicher in the Netherlands commented on how the pale phase birds were beginning to encroach the brown birds!
A fascinating dynamic seems to be taking place in your part of the near continent. It begs the question...Is this just a “local” phenomena, or is it becoming more widespread...and if so, what might be the benefits for this paler variant over the traditional brown morph? 👍

Cheers
 

David_

Well-known member
Germany
This thread made me look more precise at common buzzards again.

As I said in the area where I grew up nearly are all CBs are very light. But in the Düsseldorf area where I live nowadays the brown morph is still the dominant one. A lot of them have some white patches but I haven‘t seen one as light as the ones where I grew up.
As Düsseldorf is only 25 km away maybe my home town is just some random outlier in the percentage of pale phase buzzards
 

Jon Turner

Well-known member
Here's a pale one in a tree near my garden in Braunton N Devon. Taken this year, but I've seen it around for a couple of years now.
 

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KenM

Well-known member
This thread made me look more precise at common buzzards again.

As I said in the area where I grew up nearly are all CBs are very light. But in the Düsseldorf area where I live nowadays the brown morph is still the dominant one. A lot of them have some white patches but I haven‘t seen one as light as the ones where I grew up.
As Düsseldorf is only 25 km away maybe my home town is just some random outlier in the percentage of pale phase buzzards
Hi David,
There was a suggestion up thread that maybe “brown” Common Buzzards are more likely to appear in forested adjacent areas and the pale variants more likely to occur in more open habitat e.g. farmland.
How might this compare to your two locations?

Cheers
 

David_

Well-known member
Germany
Hi Ken,

the area around Düsseldorf has a significantly higher percentage of woodland (especially east of the city as this the border from the Lower Rhine area to the central uplands) so this might could indicate some truth to the theory of land cover affecting distributions of the colour variants of Common buzzards.
Another idea about the increase in pale phase buzzard could be dominant vs recessive in genetics. The pale phase could be (incomplete) dominant over the dark brown variation (I‘m in no way an expert on genetics this just crossed my mind so I wanted to mention it)
 

KenM

Well-known member
Hi Ken,

the area around Düsseldorf has a significantly higher percentage of woodland (especially east of the city as this the border from the Lower Rhine area to the central uplands) so this might could indicate some truth to the theory of land cover affecting distributions of the colour variants of Common buzzards.
Another idea about the increase in pale phase buzzard could be dominant vs recessive in genetics. The pale phase could be (incomplete) dominant over the dark brown variation (I‘m in no way an expert on genetics this just crossed my mind so I wanted to mention it)
Like you David, I was off school the day genetics was the main topic.😄 But yes interesting theory, I look forward to this concept being progressed on here?👍
 

Richard Prior

Halfway up an Alp
Europe
In our neck of the woods, my observations since 2006 in the area (ranging from c650m asl up to 1600m, mixed habitats) have only logged one really white CB in the breeding season (paired with a classic 'brown job') ,though some very pale birds are seen heading south in late autumn at the migration watchpoint by the Rhône (so, birds from more northern populations).
Not wishing to put a spanner in the works, but is it correct to be talking of a pale phase? The French name for the species is Buse varaiable and in my (lengthy!) experience the name is appropriate as the variations in darkness/paleness are many and fluid (photo of a local bird from last year attached).
 

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