Species Focus – Common Buzzard (Buteo buteo)

Species Focus – Common Buzzard (Buteo buteo)

Buzzards are a familiar sight in Northern Ireland, but this wasn’t always the case. This species was extinct on the island of Ireland by the beginning of the 20th Century as a result of intensive persecution from humans. Luckily for us, the species recolonised from Scottish birds moving across to county Antrim and eventually spreading through the rest of the country.

Buzzards are quite large birds with broad, rounded wings with dark tips and a short barred tail. Their plumage can vary greatly, from very dark brown to very pale individuals. They can be seen soaring with their wings held in a “V” shape. Also listen out for their mournful “mewing” call.

Common buzzards can be mistaken for the reintroduced red kite. There a few things to look for to help you tell the difference. Red kites are slightly larger than buzzards and have a forked tail. They have pale grey heads and a reddish colour on the back and breast.

Buzzards are opportunistic feeders, they predate small mammals, birds, amphibians, reptiles and even invertebrates like worms. Carrion (dead animals) also makes up a large proportion of their diet.

Attitudes towards our birds of prey have largely changed for the better, however the threat of persecution hasn’t been eradicated. Illegal activities such as poisoning of our raptors still occur in some parts of the country. We are all responsible for the protection of our magnificent buzzards and other birds of prey.  Please contact the PSNI on 101 if you suspect that a wildlife crime has taken place. 

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