Rabbits reported to be main prey of buzzards

By Jim Hurley - Nature Trail

A Common Buzzard.
A Common Buzzard.

While the Common Buzzard was persecuted in the past and was repeatedly driven to local extinction, the population in Ireland is recovering very rapidly at present.

Significantly bigger than the familiar Sparrowhawk or Kestrel and much smaller than an eagle, this medium-sized bird of prey is always impressive when spotted.

It often perches on a fencing post, telegraph pole, tree or even on the ground and stands there slowly scanning its surroundings for prey. If disturbed, it leaps into the air, makes a retreat at a low level, rises and glides overhead with its tail fanned out and its broad, brown, rounded wings outstretched with their tips upturned to form a shallow V.

My local pair raised three young last year. The nest was high in the branches of a tree. From below it looked a bulky and rather untidy mass of sticks, nothing as neat and as compact as the deep cup fashioned by a Blackbird.

It was impossible to see the youngsters until they fledged and flew. In early June, the three youngsters glided overhead following a parent. When hungry, they demanded to be fed by their parents by uttering loud, begging calls reminiscent of a cat meowing but high-pitched, plaintive and whining.

Common Buzzards are opportunistic feeders and will take whatever happens to be available ranging from birds and small mammals up to the size of a Rabbit, and down to the size of earthworms and insects. If prey is in short supply they are not averse to tucking into carrion, the decaying dead flesh of an animal, such as a road kill.

Rabbits are reported to be the main prey of Common Buzzards. The advent of resistance in Rabbits to myxomatosis and the recovery of that population has led to a matching increase in buzzards demonstrating the close link between the two in their prey-predator relationship.

This year, a pair of birds returned to my local nest site during the third week of March. I had no way of knowing if they were the same individuals as last year's parents, or if they would renovate, upgrade and use the old nest or build in new one.

One great advantage of the arrival of the prospecting pair in March was that the trees stood bare and leafless revealing the nest. Now, more than a month later, the spring bud burst continues to draw a discrete green veil of secrecy over what, if anything, is happening in the tree top.

Wexford People

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