Common Buzzard, Buteo buteo

Common Buzzard

Common Buzzard, Austria, April 2009, © Markus Jais

Names

English: Common Buzzard, Eurasian Buzzard
Scientific: Buteo buteo
German: Mäusebussard
Spanish: Busardo ratonero
French: Buse variable

Taxonomy and Subspecies

Forms a superspecies with the Madagascar Buzzard Buteo brachypterus, Mountain Buzzard Buteo oreophilus (African species) and possibly also with the Red-tailed Hawk Buteo jamaicensis from North America and the Rufous-tailed Hawk Buteo ventralis (Neotropical species). For more details see [GRIN 2009].

Currently 11 subspecies are recognized but some of them may be full species on their own and more closely to the Long-legged Buzzard. For more details see [GRIN 2009].
The most widespread subspecies in Europe are B.b. buteo which occurs in most of Europe and B. b. vulpinus (often called "Steppe Buzzard") which occurs in northern Sweden, Finland and Russia.

Size

Length: 48 - 58 cm
Wingspan: 112 - 138 cm
Weight: 600 - 1,200 g

Maximum Age

26 years in the wild, 30 years in captivity [Mebs & Schmidt 2006]

Habitat

Prefers open habitat with forests (or groups of trees) to build nest. Hunts mostly in open areas like pastures and meadows, but also in forests.

Distribution

Occurs over most of Europa eastwards to Sakhalin and Japan. In Europe, absent from most of Norway and Iceland. [Mebs & Schmidt 2006]

Migration

Adults mostly resident, but northern populations migrate. Juveniles from central Europa often migrate southwest to France. Eastern subspecies B.b. vulpinus (Steppe Buzzard) is a long distant migrant, spending the winter in east and south Africa. [Mebs & Schmidt 2006]

Breeding and Reproduction

The nest is normally built on trees, mostly within forests, sometimes also on single trees or a small group of trees outside of forests. In some regions, nests are also build on cliffs.
The female lays between 2 and 4 eggs and incubation lasts between 33 and 35 days. The young spend on average 42-49 days in the nest. [Mebs & Schmidt 2006].

Food and hunting

Feeds mostly on small mammals like voles, shrews, European Moles Talpa europaea or young hares. Also takes reptiles and small birds. Also feeds on carrion including roadkills.
Hunts from perch (trees, bushes, power poles, sometimes on the ground). Less often uses hovering or flying low over hunting areas.

Population

Most common raptor in Europe with approximately 1,000,000 pairs. Largest populations in European part of Russia (200,000 - 500,000), France (125,000 - 163,000), Germany (85,000 - 127,000), Poland (50,000 - 80,000) and Romania (28,000 - 34,000) [Mebs & Schmidt 2006].
Population currently stable, or even increasing in some countries (e.g. Poland, Sweden, Norway, Ireland or Great Britain). [BirdLife 2004]

Threats

The Common Buzzards suffered, like most raptors, from heavy persecution during the 19th and the beginning of the 20th century. Due to legal protection and a changing attitude among people, the populations have increased in most countries and often reached a high density.
In some areas, illegal persecution is still a problem (for example parts of Scotland). Poisoning directed at other raptors like Golden Eagles and Hen Harriers or mammals like foxes or wolves can also result in dead Common Buzzards as they regularly take carrion and are so susceptible to poisoned baits.
Disturbance during the breeding season by forest operations, hikers or walkers can cause breeding failure.
The decline of prey species through intensive farming practices may also have a negative impact, but so far the Common Buzzards seems to cope pretty well with modern agriculture.

Conservation

The Common Buzzard is not threatened right now in Europe. But the illegal persecution mentioned above is something that must be reduced to zero. In the 21st century, such things simply should not happen anymore.
The population of the Common Buzzard should be monitored closely, so that a decline is noticed at the earliest time possible and conservation measures can be taken.
An agriculture that does not use pesticides could benefit Common Buzzards (and many other bird species). Fallow land, that benefits the prey of the Common Buzzard is also important for the conservation of other raptors like the Western Marsh Harrier or the Eastern Imperial Eagle.
Artificial perches (for example, made of wood) or planted bushes in meadows can increase the habitat quality for Common Buzzards as they like those perches for hunting mice and other prey.

Status IUCN/BirdLife

Least Concern

Status Global Raptor Information Network

Lower risk

Interviews about the Common Buzzard

Interview with Sean Walls about the Common Buzzard in UK

References

[BirdLife 2004] BirdLife International (2004). Birds in Europe: population estimates, trends and conservation status. BirdLife International

[GRIN 2009] Global Raptor Information Network. 2009. Species account: Common Buzzard Buteo buteo. Downloaded from http://www.globalraptors.org on 19 Apr. 2009

[Mebs & Schmidt 2006] Mebs, Theodor & Schmidt, Daniel (2006). Die Greifvögel Europas, Nordafrikas und Vorderasiens. Kosmos Verlag.

Books

Forsman, Dick (1999). The Raptors of Europe and the Middle East A Handbook of Field Identification. Poyser

Mebs, Theodor & Schmidt, Daniel (2006). Die Greifvögel Europas, Nordafrikas und Vorderasiens. Kosmos Verlag.

Websites

BirdLife Species Factsheet for the Common Buzzard

GRIN species account for the Common Buzzard