Nature Notes

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The Independent Culture
BUZZARDS SEEM to have had a particularly good breeding season in the west and south of the country, probably because there was a plentiful supply of rabbits in early spring.

Many people have seen families of three young - the largest number a pair of birds can rear.

The big raptors were once common right across England, but persecution by gamekeepers more or less eliminated them from the eastern half of the country. Now that they are protected, they are gradually spreading back from their strongholds in the west.

Being relatively slow flyers, they cannot catch birds on the wing - although they do sometimes snatch pheasant poults off the ground - and their main prey is rabbits, rats, mice and voles.

When they soar in circles at this time of year, they sometimes seem to be flying for the joy of it, but mainly their purpose is territorial - to show who is boss over a particular area. Often a buzzard is mobbed by a crow or a rook, which, recognising a potentially dangerous predator, flies recklessly close, bombing from above. Generally the big fellow ignores such petty irritants and continues on his way, perhaps with the odd side- slip; but occasionally he will suddenly roll on his back and lash out at the interloper.