Do buzzards take chickens – a response from the RSPB

Buzzards will take chickens

Further to our chicken / buzzard article , we’ve received a response from the RSPB :

“Hi Mark,

Many thanks for your recent email regarding the hunting techniques of buzzards. They are as you indeed say – very intelligent birds and able to adapt to a variety of feeding techniques.

Predator prey interactions are what makes the world go round and is the very reason we the variety of wildlife we have today. It’s only through humanised impacts that we often through this balance and introduced species sometimes effect the normal behaviours for better or for worse.

In this instance, domestic chickens will perhaps make ideal and vulnerable prey to buzzards and the poor chucks will not be able to easily avoid such predation as perhaps some other wild prey species would. Also when we become (understandably) attached to our pets the emotional experience can be very upsetting in circumstances such as you
describe.

Buzzards eat principally small rodents, but also take birds, reptiles, amphibians, larger insects and earthworms. Prey up to 500g is taken by active predation, anything heavier is usually carrion or seriously enfeebled individuals.  Gamebirds are sometimes taken, though these make up only a tiny proportion of the total number of pheasants and red legged partridges released for shooting. Carrion can form a significant part of buzzard diet.

Buzzards use three main hunting techniques. They locate prey from a perch and then fly direct to it, sometimes using intervening cover for a surprise attack. They often soar over open terrain, occasionally hanging in the wind or hovering before dropping on to the prey and following up the attack on the ground. They are also commonly seen walking or standing on the ground whilst looking for invertebrates.

Buzzards prefer mixed habitat with plenty of pasture, hedgerows and small woods, and abundance of small, ungrazed steep slopes of grassland and scrub. In upland areas buzzard densities are limited by availability
of crag and tree nest sites.

Some of the other unusual observations made of buzzards include them following ploughs as they turn earth, eating apples, dung beetles and even wasps as well as catching live eels! I’ve also spoken to people who wanted to report they had been observed utilising the rising air from hot air balloons to gain further height.

I hope this information will be of interest to you and please do not hesitate to contact us if you have any further questions regarding either this, or any other wildlife matter!

Kind Regards
Lloyd Scott
Wildlife Advisor”

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