Navigation Content Activities in the Peak District
Facebook

Birds Of Prey - The Buzzard

We're so lucky in the Peak District to be able to see growing numbers of buzzards flying and circling above our heads as we drive out and about. They are such majestic creatures and if you're lucky enough to be able to stop and watch one gliding on the thermals, it's an experience you will certainly remember. Buzzards are similar looking but slightly smaller than golden eagles, but they're just as formidable as predators. They're very imposing winged hunters -especially if you're a rabbit or small mammal!

You can be happily watching them soaring above your head without a care in the world it seems, until suddenly they spot something down below and drop down like a stone to the ground at death defying speed.

 

Peak District Bzzards have now become very common place

 

In recent years, the population of buzzards has exploded and they absolutely thrive in areas where there used to be only a few, particularly in places such as Cheshire, Northamptonshire and the Lothians. They usually inhabit forests and areas of scattered woodland but in the Peak District, buzzards are a common sight circling above our glorious heather strewn moors. Watching them circle dramatically over the grit stone edges is a photographer's delight.

 

Buzzard landing on dry stone wall in the peak district

 

During the breeding season, buzzards perform spectacular aerial displays circling hovering high in the sky before tumbling down towards the ground. If you can get up close to one, they seem absolutely huge. They're actually classed as a medium to large bird of prey and their range covers most of Europe and extends well into Asia, just altering slightly from the smaller covering we're used to in Derbyshire!

The common buzzard measures between 40 and 58 cm in length but has a massive 109 - 236cm wingspan. This broad winged raptor has a variety of plumages here, all mottled brown and white variations but in Europe there is also a rough legged buzzard and a honey buzzard which look very similar. In the Derbyshire Dales we have the Common Buzzard, but as far as we're concerned, there's certainly nothing but poshness about the plumage of our favourite mini Eagle.

 

Buzzard flying Over Crow

 

Sometimes the plumage can vary from almost pure white to black but it's usually in shades of brown and cream, with a definite pale neck lace of white feathers about its neck.

The beautiful buzzard favours hunting over open land which makes the Peak District a perfect place to soar unchallenged among the wild rugged moorland and farmland. They're usually spotted in pairs and don't normally form flocks but several may be seen together if they are migrating. The buzzard is certainly not shy about coming to land and dining out on carrion - it's a great opportunist and adapts well to a varied diet of pheasant, rabbit and other small mammals. It's also been known to take lizards and snakes and can often be seen walking over recently ploughed fields looking for worms and insects. They have incredible strength and are able to pick up food of all weights in their huge yellow talons.

Buzzards are fiercely territorial and although it's rare for buzzard fights to breakout if one strays onto another pair's territory, the most amazing sight for a spectator is seeing crows attacking a buzzard if it's getting too close to its nest. This is a truly fantastic opportunity to see just how large these stunning birds really are next to the smaller stature of the crow.

 

Buzzard near Chatsowrth House In the Peak District

 

To attract a mate, the male performs ritual aerial displays just before the beginning of spring. It is affectionately known as a 'rollercoaster' in the twitching world, where the male will rise high up in the sky and then suddenly turn and plunge downwards in a breathtaking spiral, twisting and turning as he comes down to land. If you see this spectacle, you'll undoubtedly hold your breath, just as you would, watching the Red Arrows making an equally death-defying dive. Just before he hits the ground with only seconds to spare, Mr Buzzard will rise and soar upwards again to repeat the exercise.

If you ever hear a buzzard without being able to spot one, you could be forgiven for thinking a cat was meowing. It is a very evocative and plaintive 'peea-ay' which sounds quite haunting on a summer's day if the air is still and the thermals are warm. There's truly nothing more spectacular than watching the aerobatics of the Common Buzzard, our largest Peak District bird of prey.


 
Photography copyright Peak District Online 2012 (all the photography within these sections are taken by Steve and Jim, the owners of Peak District Online - both passionate about the peak district - if you wish to use any of the images on the pages please contact us , in most cases we are more than happy but would kindly ask for a link underneath each image courtesy of .....  contact info@peakdistrictonline.co.uk )