The buzzard is not the largest bird of prey, but it is widespread. Very often they can be seen in Russia, especially in the European part of the country. Exterminating rodents, buzzards do not allow them to multiply excessively, and if there are not enough of these animals next to them, they switch to eating frogs, snakes, and other birds. Buzzards are very skilled hunters.
Origin and Description
The common buzzard, also known as the buzzard, has been known to people since ancient times, and Carl Linnaeus made its scientific description in 1758. It was named in Latin Buteo buteo, in addition to this species, three dozen others are included in the genus of true buzzards.
Buzzards belong to the hawk-like order. According to the most common version, its first representatives appeared shortly after the Cretaceous-Paleogene extinction, when a large number of ecological niches were vacated, including for flying predators.
The most ancient fossil representative of hawk-like birds, Masiliraptor, inhabited the planet 50 million years ago. From it and subsequent species that have not survived to this day, the current ones originated: the process of formation of modern clans and widows dragged on for tens of millions of years.
As it was established as a result of genetic researchers, modern buzzards are a young genus. It separated from the rest of the hawks about 5 million years ago, but its species that lived on Earth then became extinct, and modern ones appeared only 300,000 years ago.
Interesting fact: Buzzards smart and very careful: in order not to give away the location of their nest, they fly into it not directly, but in a roundabout way, and perch on other trees along the way.
Appearance and features
The length of the buzzard is 50-58 cm, and its wingspan is from 105 to 135 cm. There are three color options for the bird: brown with a red and motley belly, brown with buff on the belly, dark brown. Each of these coloration types can be traced from youth to old age in the buzzard. The most common birds of the first type, the most rare – the third. Sometimes buzzards are confused with buzzards, very similar in color, they can be confused with other species.
But there are a number of signs, finding a few of which you can unmistakably recognize a buzzard:
- it has yellow legs, but it is much more distinguished by the color of its beak: at the very base it is yellow, then becomes pale blue, and darkens towards the end;
- the cornea of the eye of a young buzzard is brown with a reddish tinge, gradually becoming more and more gray. Juveniles are generally more motley, with time the color becomes more uniform;
- a sitting buzzard can be distinguished from another bird by its posture: it seems to be shrinking all over, and most importantly, it is pressing one leg. He is always ready to push off with it and start flying for prey: even while resting, he continues to look around the surroundings and look for something to profit from.
These are the main signs, but others are briefly worth noting: the flying buzzard tightly presses its neck to the body, its tail is distinctly rounded and wide open, its wings are wide, with light spots on them; the bird holds its wings not on the line of the body, but slightly lifts it up; most individuals have a clearly visible dark stripe running along the edge of the tail, but some do not.
Where does the buzzard live?
Inhabit large areas , including:
- almost all of Europe, including the European part of Russia – they are absent only in the north of Scandinavia;
- south of the Asian part of Russia;
- Asia Minor;
- Near East;
- most of Africa .
Less often than in the listed territories, the buzzard can be found in the countries of the Far East – China, Korea, Japan. Most of these birds are sedentary, and only representatives of the subspecies vulpinus, that is, small or steppe buzzards, fly south in autumn. They live in Russia, Scandinavia and Eastern Europe, and fly to India and Africa for the winter.
Although some of them may not go so far for wintering, to the coastal zones near the Black and Caspian Seas: to those territories where it gets cold in winter, but there is no snow. The heat-loving bird is moderate and can successfully survive the relatively cold winters of Europe. In the European part of Russia, buzzards are distributed fairly evenly, they live mainly in areas where forests alternate with meadows and fields, where it is convenient for them to hunt. They also love coniferous forests, especially those located in hilly areas.
In the Asian part of Russia and in the north of Kazakhstan, they chose the forest-steppe zone. Often they choose places for settlement near water bodies, they can live on rocks, although they prefer trees. They love hilly terrain, but do not live in the highlands: the maximum height at which they settle does not exceed 2,000 m, usually within 200 – 1,000 m.
Now you know where the buzzard lives. Let’s see what she eats.
What does a buzzard eat?
The bird’s menu is quite extensive, but it only includes animal food. These are:
- mice and other rodents;
- small lizards;
- small birds and chicks;
The main food of the buzzard is rodents – mice and others, mostly small ones. It can be called a specialized predator, since all its hunting style is needed in order to most effectively catch rodents. But, if their numbers decrease and it becomes more difficult to find prey, then the bird has to switch to other species.
Often in such cases, it begins to feed near reservoirs, where there are many small amphibians, you can also find worms and mollusks – there is a lot of food for the buzzard. Unlike fields and reservoirs, they do not hunt in the forest, which means that there are few forest animals in their menu. Usually, when there are enough rodents in the field, the buzzard does not pose a threat to other birds, but if there are few rodents, it can begin to feed on them: it catches small birds, eats chicks and eggs. If a hungry buzzard sees a bird of prey smaller than itself, flying with prey, then it tries to take it away.
Buzzards are also dangerous for lizards and snakes, including they exterminate poisonous ones. But such a hunt is dangerous for them: although the buzzards are more dexterous, there is a chance that the snake will be able to bite the bird. Then she dies from the poison, because she has no immunity to it. Although buzzards prefer to hunt, if there is little prey, they can also eat carrion. The appetite of this bird is high: one individual can eat three dozen rodents per day, and destroys them by the thousands in a year. Thanks to this, they are very useful, because they harass a large number of pests like mice, moles, poisonous snakes. Young buzzards also destroy harmful insects.
Interesting fact: Buzzard is another name for buzzards, also used very often. Most likely, it originated from the Turkic word “sary”, which translates as “yellow”.
Peculiarities of character and lifestyle
The buzzard has well-developed sense organs: it has very sharp eyesight, a good sense of smell and fine hearing. All this allows him to hunt effectively, and it is very difficult to get away from him. In addition, buzzards are also smart birds, this is especially noticeable when they are in captivity – they can surprise people with their quick wit and cunning. Buzzards usually fly quite slowly, but they do it very quietly and are able to get close to the victim unnoticed. They rely mainly on surprise and a sharp throw. They can fly quite fast, but are inferior to many other birds, including larger ones.
Where their wings are better suited to slowly soar in the air – they make almost no effort to do this. They can fly like this for many hours in a row and look at the ground below all the time, and when the buzzard sees a potential victim, it falls to the ground like a stone, folding its wings, and spreads them only when it is already near the ground.
At the exit from this peak, it develops great speed, and most importantly, it turns out to be unexpected, which gives the bird the opportunity to reach the prey with its claws before it understands what is happening. Although the buzzard usually shows great dexterity when hunting, it sometimes gets carried away too much, does not notice obstacles and crashes into them. Buzzards can also sit on a tree for a long time, most often choosing a dry or devoid of branches on one side for a better view, or on a pole, and wait for prey. This is how they spend most of their day, and rest in the dark.
To the south, migratory individuals stretch in large flocks from the last days of summer until the end of September, depending on the area, while usually all fly away at once, so that on one day a lot of them fly around the district, and on the other it immediately becomes empty. They return in the middle of spring, and fewer birds fly back: young ones often remain in wintering places for several years. Buzzards live quite a long time: 22-27 years, and in captivity up to 35.
Social structure and reproduction
Immediately after arrival, the mating season begins. Males try to show themselves by mating flights and arrange fights. When a pair is determined, it builds a nest, or it occupies an old one and simply builds on it. Sometimes these nests originally belonged to other birds, most often to ravens. They prefer to build nests not in the depths of the forest, but near its edge, while the tree can be both coniferous and deciduous. The nest is located in a fork of strong thick branches at a height of 7-15 meters. Barrows try to make it equally difficult to notice both from the ground and from a height. Very rarely, the nest can be located on a rock.
The diameter of the nest is 50-75 cm, it is small in height – 20-40 cm. The material for it is branches braided with dry grass – they are thick at the edge, and the closer to the center, the thinner. In the very middle there is a recess for chicks made of very thin twigs, but insulated with various materials: feathers, moss, down, bark. If one of the partners in a pair dies before laying, then another bird will certainly replace it: after determining the pairs, there are still a few single individuals of both sexes left. The laying is done until the end of spring, it usually contains 3-5 eggs. Their shell is grayish with a slight green tint, it has red or brown spots.
The average number of eggs in a clutch depends on the year: if the weather conditions are good and there are many mice in the area, there will also be more of them on average. In lean years, there may be only one egg in a clutch, and in the worst years, most buzzards will not acquire offspring at all. Incubation is carried out mainly by the female, this period lasts up to 5 weeks. The male at this time also does not mess around, but feeds the female so that she can not fly anywhere from the nest. The bird on the masonry is not aggressive, it tries to hide when strangers appear nearby or makes alarm cries while flying around.
If she is often disturbed during incubation, she can leave the clutch and make a second one – usually there is only one egg in it. When chicks appear, it is covered with rather dark brownish fluff. At first, the male is engaged in the extraction of food for them, and the female distributes it, so that everyone gets their share. When the chicks change from brown to gray down, both parents start to get food – it becomes too much. then they begin to simply throw food into the nest, and the chicks already share it themselves and often begin to fight with each other.
The more abundant the year, the more chicks survive. If it turned out to be low-fed, then most likely 1-2 individuals will survive before the flight. Young buzzards learn to fly at 6-7 weeks of life, and when they master flight well, they leave their parents and begin to hunt on their own – this usually happens by the end of July. Late chicks can fly out until the first half of September, most often they come from the second clutch. Birds from the same brood continue to stay together in the time remaining before departure to the south, and migrate until mid-autumn. Some buzzards linger until November and may even stay over the winter.
Natural enemies of buzzards
Catching a buzzard is a very difficult task because of its sharp eyesight and hearing, and therefore even larger birds of prey do not prey on it. But he cannot feel completely safe either: a gaping buzzard with prey can be attacked by eagles, gyrfalcons, falcons – and everyone is trying to take it away.
These birds are larger and stronger, so that in a fight with them, the buzzard can get seriously injured. But this happens infrequently, much more likely to conflict with another buzzard. They mainly occur during the mating season, but at other times they are also possible because of the territory – it is not always enough for everyone, and destitute birds are forced to hunt in foreign lands.
In such fights, one or even both birds can suffer greatly from sharp claws and beak. The loser will be expelled, and the winner will take or continue to own the territory. The losing bird is unable to hunt and may die from wounds and hunger – after all, in order for the wounds to heal, it needs to eat more.
Even more damage to buzzards is done by nest destroyers: large birds like hawks and kites can hunt for this , and smaller – crows, magpies; like to feast on eggs and chicks, also martens with weasels. But buzzards do not suffer as much damage from them as many other birds, since the female leaves the nest very rarely.
Among the enemies of the buzzard and man: for example, in the USSR they were considered pests and a reward was put for their extermination, because they were killed by the thousands every year. In other countries, this was also practiced, and in some places they are still being killed uncontrollably.
But more birds have been suffering in recent years due to the chemical industry and the cultivation of land with poisons – for example, to kill insects. The accumulation of such poisons in the body of buzzards leads to their earlier death.
Population and species status
The total abundance of the species is high enough to be classified as not causing concern. In comparison with the situation in the first half of the last century, there has been a significant improvement. Then buzzards were massively exterminated as pests, which led to a drop in their numbers in Europe and Russia at times.
Then it became clear that these “pests” perform a very important function, destroying rodents and other real pests. Although many other birds of prey are also engaged in this, the buzzards are one of the most numerous and effective.
Due to the decrease in their number, the natural balance was disturbed and there were too many rodents, therefore, hunting for buzzards in almost all countries of Europe was banned, after which their numbers began to recover.
The current European population is estimated at 1.5 million individuals, making the buzzard one of the most numerous large birds of prey in Europe. According to various estimates, there can be from 4 to 10 million birds around the world.
Interesting fact: According to one version, the name of the bird, the buzzard, was due to the fact that it emits a plaintive cry, and close to the word “beep”. But there is another assumption: that it comes from the Old Slavonic “kanuti”, which means “to fall”, because this is how buzzards hunt. The verb “buzz” in this version, on the contrary, comes from the name of the bird.
The fast and agile buzzard is able to give odds as a hunter to most other birds of prey. Having taken a fancy to the forest edges, the birds fly around the fields and meadows all day long, looking for rodents, and can catch 30-40 individuals per day, and much more during the feeding period of the chicks. Therefore, they are very useful for farmers, but also make them look after the chickens – they can also be carried away.