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Serious needed with Buzzard Identification (1 Viewer)

gilgit2

Well-known member
During the autumn and spring passage we have a great influx of raptors in the northern parts of Pakistan, especially in Hunza Valley. One of troubling raptors for identification are buzzards, as the area might have Long-legged, Himalayan and Common/Steppe Buzzard during the season, with lots of morphs and overlapping features. During the past 2 weeks I spotted numerous buzzards (mixed with lots of Black Kites and Booted Eagles and few Steppe Eagles and vultures) and am totally confused about how to know what is what. So I will post some images in this tread to gets some ideas to clear my head.

Image 1 and 2 are same bird. 3 and 4 are different individuals.
 

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Image 6, 7 and 8 are different, and 9 and 10 are a single bird.
 

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Image 11 and 12 same bird. 13, 14 and 15 are different individuals.
 

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Image 16, 17, 18, 19 and 20 are different individuals. I think these are enough for the time being.
 

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Very nice set of photos. Many are pale adult Himalayan Buzzards with three blackish round areas (two carpal batches and a belly batch), head pattern paler than the belly patch, whitish undertail coverts and parts of belly contrasting strongly to the belly patch, much dense barring on remiges and a narrowish dark trailing edge to the wing : 1,2 and 4 in the first set, 6-7 and probably also 8 in the second set, 11-13 in the third set and 16-18 in the fourth set. Number 5 is an adult Steppe. 15 is a pale first-year bird and I would call it Steppe Buzzard, although it is paler than most. The dark birds are the most difficult - adults in 3, 8 and 20 and first-year in 14. The adults have wing-feather barring like in Steppe, but I have not found very much comparison material of dark adult Himalayan Buzzards.

Is there really a visible active migration of Himalayan Buzzards in Pakistan? If yes, is their flight direction and behaviour similar to other raptors? What time of year they are migrating relatively to other species, like Black Kites, Booted Eagles and Steppe Eagles which you mention?
 
Very nice set of photos. Many are pale adult Himalayan Buzzards with three blackish round areas (two carpal batches and a belly batch), head pattern paler than the belly patch, whitish undertail coverts and parts of belly contrasting strongly to the belly patch, much dense barring on remiges and a narrowish dark trailing edge to the wing : 1,2 and 4 in the first set, 6-7 and probably also 8 in the second set, 11-13 in the third set and 16-18 in the fourth set. Number 5 is an adult Steppe. 15 is a pale first-year bird and I would call it Steppe Buzzard, although it is paler than most. The dark birds are the most difficult - adults in 3, 8 and 20 and first-year in 14. The adults have wing-feather barring like in Steppe, but I have not found very much comparison material of dark adult Himalayan Buzzards.

Is there really a visible active migration of Himalayan Buzzards in Pakistan? If yes, is their flight direction and behaviour similar to other raptors? What time of year they are migrating relatively to other species, like Black Kites, Booted Eagles and Steppe Eagles which you mention?

Thank you so much for going though all the images and providing some very useful information. I also couldn't find any information about dark morphs in Himalayan Buzzard. For the time being your IDs will be my final results and will update my data accordingly.

Yes, I have seen active migration of these buzzards together with other raptors. Usually in the spring the peak raptor migration in Gilgit region starts around first week of march and lasts up to mid of April. Generally buzzards migration is spread more evenly with 20 to 30 spotting up to mid march, reaching to 100 to 200 per day during peak from last week of march to first week of april, and gradually declining to few birds even in may. Where as Black Kites peak with 1000s of birds during the last 10 days of march, followed by booted eagles lasting till mid april. Though generally Kites and Booted Eagles do form massive flocks, but buzzards are always mixed with these flock, or in parties of max 5 or 6 birds.
 
Great thread and a lovely set of images.

As per Tim Inskipp, dark morph Himalayan Buzzard does exist, contra to Rasmussen (the Ripley Guide).

Jalid, can dark morph Long-legged be ruled out for the dark birds? Are you aware of any differences between this form and the equivalent form of Himalayan? Two birds I found on OBI look confusingly similar to Gilgit's images. One has a broad terminal tail band, the other not. The trailing edge is partial on the first bird (an immature?) but broad on the second (an adult?) :

http://orientalbirdimages.org/searc...2RxOjPLHPwsKw-Px4jHb-HEr93K26TpDaDfLKyEVeU_m0

http://orientalbirdimages.org/searc...fL7aNzxkwh9CEthCScJx0PERlMYqXlfZK9YIweAsj888U

I also found this beauty, photographed in Kuwait, on HBW. It looks quite slightly-built for LLB?

https://www.hbw.com/ibc/photo/long-...AXQEpmHUBXIHKcaTqJB2-3LijG2lrKPkfqJyCbq4GewVw

The thread reminded me of a bird we debated on the Ask IDs of Indian Birds Facebook page. I've attached the single image of it. The identity was never resolved. The apparent size and build would appear to rule out Steppe and Himalayan and it seems the tarsi are visible, which probably rules out Upland, making LLB the most likely candidate. I would love to hear what you think.
 

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As per Tim Inskipp, dark morph Himalayan Buzzard does exist, contra to Rasmussen (the Ripley Guide).

Birds of South Asia, The Ripley Guide vol 2, p 102: Himalayan Buzzard, Variation: All-dark morph (very common; BMNH)...

(It may be that dark morph is more common in east).

But they say also, that the species is resident. I am not sure what is this based on. It really seems that Gilgit area is best place in the world to see this species on migration. I have not checked now, but I think that for example the Nepal counts are much lower.

Yes, dark Long-legged Buzzard indeed is a pitfall here. Colour differences between all dark morphs are slight and variation makes them difficult to use. The average remiges pattern of LLB is in some ways between Steppe and Himalayan Buzzards, and that does not make things any easier. Dark morph LLB and Steppe are normally separated by their size and shape, but in this character Himalayan is the species in between. The dark birds in the original set does not look like LLB to me, but if somebody insists that they do look like one, I have very little arguments left.

About the other dark-morph buteos in Andy's links. I can't challenge the specific identification of Gujarat and Rajasthan birds. In any case, LLB is the commonest species there, based also on pale-morph individuals. The Kuwait individual really looks slight and small-billed in this photo, but its dusky internal barring on remiges is very much like in typical dark-morph LLB. And yes, the attached photo looks more like LLB to me also. But these are birds which really are easier in the field than in photos. Which does not mean that they can't be tricky in the field conditions.
 
Thank you jalid and andy, as you highlighted. The splitting of these buzzards is extremely troublesome for identification. As all 3 candidate species are possible in the area, so features-wise, I can find any buzzard I want based on some features. But on a closer look the same buzzard also appears to be totally a different.
 
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