Red Kites and Buzzards!
Which is which?
Red Kite on the left - Buzzard on the right, being attacked by Carrion Crows
This is easy! You don’t need binoculars!
The Red Kite is the only British bird that has a forked tail! Just look for long enough and you will see it.
The Buzzard has a rounded tail.
The other easy way to tell them apart is by their calls. Click on the links and hear them.
Late summer, many of the birds are calling, either the young begging for food, or as part of territorial or social behaviour.
In spring they continue calling but then the calls are mainly for mating or territorial claim purposes.
Both of these species are relative newcomers to the Blackwater Valley.
About the Red Kite
Despite being a common bird in medieval times, the Red Kite became persecuted and very rare and only found in mid-Wales. Releases in the Chiltern Hills in 1989 on John Paul Getty’s estate, were enormously successful and the population has grown and spread out to our Valley. By 2016 there were 4400 British pairs and releases in other areas are making their presence more obvious all over the UK. In winter their night time roosts are a great spectacle as dozens, maybe hundreds of birds, gather in the sky before settling. The best place to see them is still in the Chiltern Hills but no doubt new roosts will be present in local areas. Do tell me if you find one near us!
Red Kites are mainly scavengers, living on carrion, scraps even earthworms. They may take small prey like mice or voles.
Apart from seeing these large birds in the sky you will often be attracted to them by their whistling call. If you see one, there is a good chance of seeing several.
About the Buzzard
The Buzzard was once common but it became limited to the west of England and Wales until the end of the 1960s. This was due to shooting by landowners, the impact of organochlorine pesticides and myxomatosis on the rabbit population, a favourite food source. The natural spread of the species since the banning of the pesticides and recovery of the rabbit population has been quite remarkable and they are ever present around us now, being our most common bird of prey.
There may be over 75,000 pairs in Britain now. The oldest Buzzard known was over 30 years and the typical age is 12 years.
Favoured food is rabbits and other small mammals, birds, large insects and earthworms.
I find most of my Buzzards by hearing them ‘mewing’ as they ‘wheel’ in the sky.