In the past few weeks, I have spent a huge amount of time studying why the Red Kites have not been feeding as regularly as they had been. I believe that the pair of local Buzzards may be part of the answer to the recent change in behaviour.
In my early days of wildlife photography, I believed that in mainland England, the Buzzard was top of the food chain and was the dominant raptor. I then observed some contradictory displays with some Red Kites dive-bombing a feeding Buzzard and Crows attacking the Buzzards in flight. There was not much in the way of retaliation from the Buzzards, which made me think they weren't as tough as I had imagined. I was wrong.
In the last few days I have seen an incredibly dominant display by the Buzzards, which has elevated them [IMO] once more to the very top of the English birds of prey food chain.
A very smart and cautious raptor, this Buzzard sat watching me as I watched him for circa 3 hours without moving. He always stayed hidden in the foliage of a near-by tree, using his excellent camouflage, until he at last popped out onto this branch [above].
I watched the male Buzzard flying from high in a tree straight towards the ground, where it collided with huge force into a female Pheasant. This impact resulted in both birds bouncing up off the ground about 3' in the air and then immediately launching into a flight-chase through the woods at the edge of the meadow.
On another occasion the male Buzzard set off from his watchful position and chased a pair of Crows around the meadow with an amazing display of aerial dominance. I was impressed at the agililty and acrobatic capabilities of the large raptor, with the corvids fleeing quickly into another field.
Two Red Kites had been patiently circling some food in the meadow and had landed in a nearby tree, watching and waiting for their chance to feed. About 20 minutes after they landed in the tree, I saw a Buzzard arrive in the next tree along. It just sat there without making any fuss or any noise. The two Red Kites flew off and didn't return for the rest of that day [several hours]. The Kites clearly understood the 'pecking order'. No challenge was necessary.
The Common Buzzard (Buteo buteo) is a medium to large raptor with a range that covers most of Europe and Asia. The Buzzard measures between 40 - 60cm in length with a 110 - 140cm wingspan. This raptor can weigh 0.4 - 1.4kg. The Common Buzzard is an all year resident of the UK.