At a glance

The common buzzard is the UK’s most widespread bird of prey. It spends its time perched on high poles or flying in the open, gliding over forests and fields. It has a fairly slow, clumsy take-off, but once in flight soars easily with few-wing beats, using thermals to reach a great height. Buzzards can be identified by their mewing call which sounds similar to that of a cat.

Key facts

Scientific name: Buteo buteo
Status: Resident breeder and passage migrant

Breeding birds: 57,000 – 79,000 pairs

Conservation status: Green
Length: 50 – 57 cm
Wingspan: 113 – 128 cm
Weight: 550 – 1350 g
Typical lifespan: 12 years

What do buzzards look like?

Buzzards have dark brown upperparts with much paler underparts and brown and reddish streaks on their bellies. There is a pale band across the breast. The primaries are almost black with a darker trailing edge. The short, broad tail is grey-brown with narrow bars and a dark terminal band.

The head it brown overall with some white on the throat. The eyes are yellow, the bill is black with a yellow cere and gape, and the legs and feet are yellow. Males and females are similar but the female is larger.

Juvenile buzzards resemble the adult but are paler with streaks on their underparts. The head has white or yellow streaks and the wings and back have reddish edges. The tail often lacks the terminal band and the eyes are grey.

How do buzzards breed?

Buzzards breed between March and May. They build their nests in tall trees in a fork of a branch, close to the trunk. The nest is flat and bulky made from sticks, twigs and small branches and lined with green leaves.

Buzzards lay 2-5 smooth eggs, which are white with purple patches. The eggs are incubated for 33-35 days mostly by the female alone while the male finds prey and feeds her and guards the nest territory.

Chicks are covered in dull brown down with a dark patch around the eye. Both parents feed the chicks for the first few days but the male will spend most of his time hunting and bringing food back to the nest.

They fledge at 50-55 days after hatching but remain dependent on their parents until the late summer, and reach sexual maturity at 2 or 3 years.

What do buzzards eat?

Buzzards feed on small mammals such as voles, rabbits and mice. They will also eat other birds, small reptiles and amphibians and insects.


Where can I see buzzards ?

Buzzards are best seen in Scotland, Wales, the Lake District and South West England but breed across the whole of the UK.

They can be found across the countryside including woodlands, moorland, pastures but will also venture into villages and even city centres perching on fence posts and pylons as they scan for prey.

What do buzzards sound like?

Piotr Szczypinski/xeno-canto

Did you know?

Buzzards are not popular with falconers as they are considered too lazy to be taught to fly at live prey.

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6 Responses

  1. I live in Tilehurst, Berkshire and have discovered two (I’m guessing – distinctive call) common buzzards perched very high up in a tall tree in our garden. Have been keeping a watch on them for the last 2 days particularly as they are being ‘dive bombed’ regularly by a seagull. So am assuming they are nesting. I assume they are wild too.

    1. Hello! I used to live at tilehurst along with various other areas of reading. It looks a very well known for having red kites (same shape and size as a buzzard but slightly different colouring). They would swarm in huge numbers at certain times of year. I worked in the blade in the town centre and from the top floor you could look down on them as they flew below!

      1. Easy to tell the difference between a Red Kite and a Buzzard, in flightat least. Kites have a forked tail. Buzzards wingtip feathers turn up.

        Hope that helps.

  2. We have a Buzzard that flies over our house and follows the railway line beside us. This is quite amazing to see, more so because we live in the very centre of the city. First realised there was a bird of prey locally by hearing its call whilst sat in the living room… remarkable

  3. I live in Derbyshire and love to watch the buzzards gliding just so relaxing to watch we have quite a few here

  4. I’ve seen buzzards in fields running around like they’re dancing. I wonder if it is the same as seagulls and how they get worms out of the ground? Does anyone know?

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