Buzzard

Irish Name: Clamhán
Scientific name: Buteo buteo
Bird Family: Raptors
green
Conservation status

Status

Largely resident, though Ireland receives birds from Britain during the winter

Identification

A medium sized raptor (bird of prey) with broad wings, a compact body, short neck and medium-length tail. Has a short hooked bill suitable for eating meat. Often seen sitting on fences and telegraph posts or soaring high in the sky, where it shows a fan shaped tail and spread outer wing feathers. Will also hang in the wind on updrafts. Flies with quick, stiff wing beats. Buzzards have very variable plumages from very dark to very light. Much of the plumage is barred. Adults are brown on the upperparts, body and underwing coverts and show a broad black band on the end of the tail and wing feathers. The rest of the underwings are whitish and finely barred. Variation in adult plumage is displayed on both the upper and under sides and some birds can be extremely pale, especially in the tail and upperwing coverts. Juvenile birds are similar to adults and also display a range of light and dark plumage variation; juveniles lack black bands on the ends of their tails and wings and some paler birds show prominent dark markings on the underwing at the carpal (wing joint).

Voice

Very vocal for a raptor, especially in the spring. Has a loud mewing call which it uses mainly in flight.

Diet

Takes a wide variety of prey items including small mammals, birds, rabbits, insects, earthworms and amphibians.

Breeding

Until quite recently breeding birds were to be found mainly in the north and east of country, north of a line from Sligo to Wexford. Now they are widespread. The stronghold of the species is in Co. Donegal, Co. Monaghan and Co. Louth. Birds nest in trees and sometimes on cliffs, usually with access to open land including farmland, moorland and wetland. The species was absent in Ireland from the late nineteenth century until 1933, when a pair bred in Antrim. The species has spread slowly down from the north through the twentieth century

Wintering

Largely resident

Monitored by

Countryside Bird Survey

More Information

Read more in the Buzzard Species Focus from the 2011 Spring edition of our Wings magazine.

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