Reddish Vale Country Park
Buzzards are one of the most common birds of prey in the UK, a medium sized bird with a short thick neck, short tail and a large rounded head. It's plumage can vary, ranging from almost white to very dark brown.
Buzzards are strongly territorial, and defend their territory throughout the year. They are sedentary birds, and movements over 100km are rare. The nesting territory contains several alternative nest sites, usually 1-3, but up to 14 have been recorded.
Distribution of territories depends largely on the availability of suitable nest sites. Since much of the foraging is done outside the territory, the territory size is not affected by food availability. The feeding grounds are often shared with other birds, though hunting perches are defended.
Both birds take part in nest building, usually in a tree, rocky crag or cliff. The nest is a substantial structure of branches, twigs, heather and other available material. The average size of a newly built nest is 1m in diameter and 60cm deep. Re-used nest can be 1.5m across. The shallow cup in the nest is lined with green material immediately prior to egg laying, with further material added gradually until the young fledge.
The breeding success depends largely on food supply and interference from humans. Up to half of nest failures are due to human interference, both illegal and incidental. Three quarters of young buzzards die before they mature at three years old. Those that reach breeding age have an average life span of around 8 years. The oldest wild buzzard known was 25 years and 4 months old.
Buzzards eat mainly small rodents, but will also take birds, reptiles, amphibians, larger insects and earthworms. Prey of up to 500g can be taken by active predation, anything heavier is usually carrion or seriously enfeebled individuals.
Gamebirds are sometimes taken, though they make up a tiny proportion of the total number pheasants and partridges released for shooting. Carrion can form a significant part of a buzzards diet, although the amount of carrion taken varies a lot from place to place.
Buzzards use three main hunting techniques. They locate prey from a perch and then fly direct to it, sometimes using cover for a surprise attack. They often soar over open terrain, occasionally hanging in the wind or hovering before dropping on to the prey and following up the attack on the ground. They are often seen walking or standing on the ground looking for invertebrates.
Buzzards can often be seen flying at high altitudes, how high?
Aircraft usually record the altitudes of birds, often after a strike. According to an International Bird Strike Committee study, buzzards flew at an average of about 400 metres, but could be found over 1000 metres high. On warm, clear days they can probably fly higher. Buzzards like many other birds of prey, use thermals to soar to these heights. They have excellent eyesight and can easily spot prey from these heights.
Length, 20 inches,
Wingspan, 48-60 inches,
Lifespan, max recorded age, 24yrs 4 months, 8 years in the wild,
Diet, Mostly small mammals, also birds, reptiles, large insects, earthworms.