Monday, 10 March 2014

Buzzards are back.

      Wildlife conservation in Ireland has had many setbacks over the years and has often been looked on by people who were in positions to help as something which wasn`t worth any effort.
     One success story in Irish wildlife seems to be the Buzzard or to give it its Latin name Buteo Buteo.
      Over the last twelve months or so my sightings of this impressive bird of prey are becoming more numerous and on Sunday last when travelling along the Blackwater valley close to Cappaquinn I spied a group of five buzzards soaring together. The sight of these five birds as they soared and tumbled in display was a sure sign that breeding season is nigh. Hopefully they will breed nearby and that their nests will be left undisturbed as there is still a level of dislike  for birds of prey by some people.
    The above pictures areof the Buzzards in Cappaquinn soaring against a grey sky.

      A little information on the life of the Buzzard:

Diet:- The diet of the Buzzard, unlike some of our other birds of   
            prey consists almost completely on ground mammals of which rabbits are their favourite. They also eat plenty of rodents which they spot with their sharp eyesight while soaring or sometimes hovering in a strong breeze. Birds when presented are also on the diet although they would constitute a very small part of the buzzards diet unlike the sparrowhawk.

Breeding:- Buzzards are thought to be monogamous and mate for life. Breeding starts in march and starts with the males flights of display with soaring, diving and tumbling similar to what was happening in Cappaquinn a couple of days ago.

Communication;- While not a beautifull songster the buzzard is quite vocal and their call is unmistakeable. They call regularly to each other while soaring and once your ear becomes attuned to their sound it will quickly alert you of their presence. I`ll post a link below  of a recording of some of these calls.
  The above three pictures are of a lone bird which were taken near the river Lickey last October.

Recording of a Buzzard while soaring.



  1. HI Tony it is lovely to know a fellow birder in Ireland. Many thanks for putting me in a circle. I tried to join as a google friend however I was not able to however you are in my circle. I live in Northern Ireland about 13 miles east of Belfast by the sea.

  2. Hi Tony. Thank you for visiting my blog and for your contribution to ideas. I do think there may be a “problem” with Buzzards taking pheasant poults in some areas of the UK but as details of the requests to kill Buzzards are dealt with in secret it is impossible to know for sure who and from where is making the applications.

    The wider problem in England, and certainly in the part of Lancashire I live, is the uncontrolled and unscientifically tested release of huge numbers of pheasants and red-legged partridge. This has almost certainly been a factor in the wholesale decline of Grey Partridge. The Grey is now virtually extinct in this part of Lancashire and probably in many others, obviously not entirely due to releases but it has to be a factor - see the recent BTO Bird Atlas.

    As you rightly point out, Buzzards do not take birds in any large quantity as in my experience they are somewhat ”lazy” and would rather wait around for a passing rabbit or search the ground for earthworms and the like. If pheasants are presented to them “on a plate” without due (and probably expensive) protection and safeguards then Buzzards will take the free meal.

    Of course many will argue in favour of the side benefit of the feed benefiting small birds, and it undoubtedly does, but the environmental damage caused by the release of millions of game birds far outweighs any incidental benefits to farmland birds.

    Far from introducing Buzzard control measure as “an environmental necessity” I think that we need an open and honest debate about the environmental pros and cons of game bird releases.

  3. The BTO Bird Atlas 2007- 2011 states that infection from caecal nematodes from farm-reared pheasants may be a factor in the dramatic decline of Grey Partridge.

    “Releases of farm-reared pheasants have increased five-fold since the 1960s to around 35 million birds annually with some 15 million shot.

    6.5 million Red-legged Partridge were released across the UK in 2004 and 2.6 million shot.”

  4. You obviously have a sustainable form of shooting In Ireland. Here, and as you recognise, shoots are often highly organised, income sources for farmers and landowners that require plenty of pheasants and partridges for shoots to go at.

    I am certain there has been no full scale investigation of the effect of large numbers of game birds on invertebrate, insect or plant populations.

    Bird Atlas mentions - “Work by The Game & Wildlife Conservation Trust … suggests that the interiors of many lowland woods managed for pheasants have a more open structure, creating favourable conditions for the growth of herbs and brambles supporting higher densities of songbird species”.

    The impact of releasing 35 million pheasants and 6.5 million red-legs is by now impossible to quantify but is surely only bad.