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What is a Common Buzzard?

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  • Written By: Greer Hed
  • Edited By: Kristen Osborne
  • Last Modified Date: 09 November 2016
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A common buzzard is a bird of prey of the species Buteo buteo that is native to Europe and Asia. The birds are usually large, with a wingspan measuring between 2 and 5 feet (about .6 and 1.5 meters). Their feathers are usually dark brown to black, with lighter feathers sometimes appearing on the chest and neck. Like most birds of prey, the common buzzard subsists on a diet largely comprised of small mammals. The species was on the decline during the 1950s due to decreased prey populations and the interference of humans who considered the buzzard a pest, but in modern times, the common buzzard is no longer at risk of endangerment.

Rabbits are the most common prey hunted by the common buzzard. However, the bird's diet is opportunistic and includes other small mammals, as well as small reptiles, insects, and carrion. The common buzzard's large size and ample wingspan make it better suited to slow gliding rather than fast flying, so it does not tend to hunt smaller birds in the air or other moving prey, as some other birds of prey do. Instead, its usual hunting tactics involve perching on a tree branch where it can remain camouflaged due to its dark, mottled coloring, and waiting for a rodent or other small animal to pass beneath its perch. Then, the common buzzard swoops down and claims its prey.

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Common buzzards mate for life, with females choosing a mate based upon a showy "roller coaster" display that the males perform while in flight. The males perform for potential or existing mates at the beginning of spring by flying to a great height and then turning to plunge downwards in a spiral formation. Breeding takes place on the outskirts of forested areas and usually results in a clutch of two to four eggs. Males and females will take turns sitting on the nest until the eggs hatch after a period of about a month.

The common buzzard, like many birds of prey, does not live in large flocks but instead occupies a territory with its chosen mate. Males will occasionally fight to defend their territory from rival buzzards. Smaller birds found in a common buzzard's territory, such as crows or ravens, may attempt to attack or pester the buzzards to push them out of their territory. Western European species either remain in a single territory or have a small migratory range, while species living in eastern Europe and Asia tend to have larger migratory ranges that take them to Africa or India during periods of colder weather. During migration, the birds may be seen in larger groups of up to 20.

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