You can see them gliding high in the sky on motionless wings when the weather’s fine
Gardening’s an activity that involves a lot of looking down, but it pays to straighten up from time to time. It gives you the chance to ease the strain on your back – and to scan the sky.
That’s when you’ll spot a buzzard. Back in the 1970s, the high-flier was a much rarer sight than it is today, whereas now it’s one of the UK’s commonest birds of prey.
It’s estimated that there are currently around 80,000 breeding pairs. They’ve spent the summer raising families, so there are more buzzards around now than at any other time of year.
The last century or so has been challenging for British buzzards. In Victorian times they were killed as a matter of routine. They eat small mammals, mostly rodents, and scavenge carcasses. But game birds are also taken, so gamekeepers saw the buzzard as vermin that had to be controlled.
But after the First World War there were far fewer gamekeepers around, so the buzzard began a modest comeback. It stalled in the 1950s, when the first wave of myxomatosis wiped out Britain’s rabbits.
It meant that by the early years of the 1970s, nearly all of England, and most of Northern Ireland, were buzzard-free. To see one you had to go to Scotland, Wales or Devon and Cornwall.
Since then though the comeback has continued. In England, the buzzard’s spread has been really striking. Even counties such as Suffolk, Norfolk and Kent are now buzzard country. Something else has happened, too. Now you’ll even see them in the suburbs.
So, wherever you are, it’s worth looking out for buzzards. If it’s fine, they’ll be soaring high in the sky, gliding on motionless wings. If it’s raining (or has recently been raining) you can sometimes see them waiting patiently for the weather to improve. Favourite waiting areas include telegraph poles and fence posts.
Look along fence posts and telegraph poles for suburban sightings of buzzards