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Now the most common bird of prey in Dorset.


Photograph by: 
Peter Orchard

Buzzard: stands out in a crowd!

Post date: Friday, 13 December, 2013 - 00:00

We are used to seeing buzzards (Buteo buteo) soaring in the sky on sunny days or perhaps sitting on a telegraph pole or fence post but a report of between seven and twelve regularly standing in a field near Dorchester (just west of Compton Valance) reminded me that some years ago there were fifteen on the ground in a field near Puddletown. Is this unusual or bizarre behavior? I made enquiries and it seems not.

Most animal behavior in winter is driven solely by survival. Firstly, why so many together? In winter, as with most species of birds, numbers of buzzards in the south increases as birds from further north are driven south in search of food. Secondly why on the ground? In better weather buzzards eat small mammals and are especially fond of rabbits. In winter these mammals are more scarce and harder to find using the buzzard's usual tactic of soaring high and observing before making a stealthy decent for a kill.

In winter, especially, they eat worms, beetles and other invertebrates and you do not find those by soaring high in the sky! Instead, they need to be close to the ground, indeed, stood on the ground. Suitable places with a sufficient food supply can be hard to find as they need a fallow field, not one full of winter wheat, and they need the soil to be damp so that worms and the like are near the surface. Once one finds the right conditions others will 'flock' to it to feed, hence the strange sight of several stood, at safe intervals apart, watching and waiting for a meal. Standing on the ground means they are closer to their prey and can react immediately; it also means they save energy by being less active.

So, it's true, buzzards can stand their ground and do stand up to be counted!


The records for this species have been organised into reports, charts, maps and photos. Click a pic below to see the detail:

Sites List Distribution Map Distribution Map Some Charts Some Photographs Original Tweets Relatives Guidance Notes
Common Name Buzzard
Scientific Name Buteo buteo
Status Frequent
Interest Level
Species Family Harriers, hawks and buzzards
  • 01 - January
  • 02 - February
  • 03 - March
  • 04 - April
  • 05 - May
  • 06 - June
  • 07 - July
  • 08 - August
  • 09 - September
  • 10 - October
  • 11 - November
  • 12 - December
Preferred Environment
  • Downland and scrub
  • Woodland - broadleaf
Look for Large birds soaring in the sky on sunny days
Additional Identification Notes
  • Probably now the most common bird of prey in Dorset and in winter numbers are boosted by incoming migrant birds
  • They can appear in quite large groups in fields in cold weather where they feed on worms and grubs
  • On cold, dull days when they cannot soar they can be see sitting glumly on fence posts and telegraph poles