What do Buzzards Eat?

By Harry Green

The saga continues.....keep sending in your observations.

E-mail from Gary Farmer:

We keep a Records Book at the Redditch Group indoor meetings (Worcs Wildlife Trust) and the following was entered a little while ago "Buzzard swooped down with pigeon in its claws in Crumpfields Lane (Webheath). Flew off again into field"

From Les Brown.

The aerial manoeuvres of large flocks of Starlings at dusk as they prepare to dive into nearby bushes to roost is a sight well worth witnessing, and also of interest is the behaviour of the various raptors that usually attend such gatherings hoping to catch their evening meal. I witnessed a roost of about 10,000 Starlings at Corse Wood Hill near Gloucester last February and during the time I was present Peregrine, Merlin, Kestrel, Sparrowhawk and Buzzard were in attendance at various times.

The peregrine and merlin did what these falcons do best, dashing in at high speed and catching a bird without much difficulty. The Kestrel circled and hovered above but in spite of numerous attempts was not seen to catch anything . It should stick to rodents! The sparrowhawk flew in low beneath the wheeling Starlings and timed its climb to coincide with the descending birds and had little difficulty in snatching one in an up and under movement. It was the two Buzzards that were of particular interest though. These birds lazily circled overhead and slowly drifted into the side of an approaching flock in an attempt to catch a starling in passing. I watched numerous such attempts by the buzzards to catch in this way without success, but perseverance paid off and eventually one was successful. It carried the bird to the ground, presumably to kill it, and later flew off with it towards nearby woodland.

From Mark E Turner

I have read with great interest observers' notes sent in for Harry's continuing saga of "What do Buzzards eat?"

During the past ten years or so, many of us have enjoyed the appearance of buzzards taking up residence in our local countryside/neighbourhood as their range expands and population grows. This has been of particular interest to me as buzzards have enthralled me since my youth.

Following my participation in the 1997 Worcestershire Buzzard survey and the publication of my first book, "Birding Buzzard Country"*, many people have shared their own experiences of the species with me, and that includes Buzzards' eating habits.

Carcasses are obviously a common attraction, ranging from corpses of rabbits, pheasants, fox and crow in the road, to dead sheep in the fields.

The most worrying and indeed controversial incident I have learned of was through over-hearing a conversation between a gamekeeper and a local farmer. It was of a buzzard dropping out of a tree onto a live pheasant poult.

Buzzards though are highly adaptable, they have learned to take advantage of easy meals made available by Man working the land. On many occasions I have seen buzzards taking worms in the wake of the plough and small rodents flushed out by the harvester. But, as I have learned through watching active nest sites around Broadway, when youngsters are in the nest, rabbit is top of the menu. It's an amazing sight to see a buzzard returning with a full-size rabbit hanging by the scruff from its talons.

Birding Buzzard Country: hawk watching in the North Cotswolds and the Vale of Evesham by Mark E Turner and available from the author.

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