The Life of Buzzards

By Peter Dare | Whittles Publishing | Paperback | June 2015 | 292 Pages | colour photos, colour & b/w illustrations, colour maps, colour tables | ISBN: 9781849951302

The Publisher’s View: This is a much-needed and authoritative account of Common Buzzards gained from extensive studies by the author over 60 years and also from enthusiasts in this country and across northern Europe. The accounts describe the life history and ecology of Buzzards mainly inhabiting the British uplands where historically they have always been most numerous. For the first time, population activities are followed through successive seasonal stages of their life cycle. These include the vital and inter-related aspects of Buzzard territories and social behaviour, diets and hunting methods, food requirements, prey abundance and breeding success, survival and life spans and how Buzzard numbers and distribution have changed, particularly in relation to the influence of Man. The Life of Buzzards also demonstrates how well Buzzards have adapted to living in our modern and rapidly-changing landscapes, constantly adapting their habits in response to prey resources and environmental conditions.

In The Life of Buzzards’s first section, The Year of the Buzzard, the sequential changes in the composition and behaviour of a Buzzard community, their seasonal patterns of food habits and hunting methods, their breeding season from courtship until fledging of broods and their subsequent dispersal are outlined. The second section, Special Topics, provides greater detail of six key aspects of their ecology which are explored within the following chapter topics: Territory; Energy and Food Needs; Predation; Food Supply and Breeding Success; Demography and Population Dynamics; and Changes in Buzzard Abundance.

The Authors: Peter Dare’s lifetime experience of Buzzards includes PhD research and further studies undertaken, despite pursuing a career as a government shellfisheries biologist. He has had many papers published on Buzzards and other species in ornithological journals.

Fatbirder View: This is, above all, a comprehensive study of a very familiar bird, loved by birders and often very much persecuted by game keepers and driven shoots. No angel this as likely to take a red grouse as a rabbit, a whinchat as a worm depending on whatever is available to this opportunistic survivor. For someone like me, growing up and now once more living in the extreme southeast, buzzards were birds seen on holidays until very recently they have slowly recovered from centuries of persecution. Now it’s a common wintering bird, numerous in migration times and once again breeding in increasing numbers. I love them.

Clearly the author is a great admirer too but this is not some sentimental tribute but a scholarly treatment after a great deal of study and we should be grateful for such dedication to his science for he has much to tell us.

For example, its fascinating to look at what they prey upon in Ireland where they have rapidly recolonised despite the lack of small mammals such as short-tailed voles and common shrews that form such a high percentage of many raptors diets in the UK… even other raptors are not safe losing chicks such as tawny owls and even osprey!

The text is all easy to read and the photographs businesslike and relevant rather than coffee-table artwork.

This is an important book, of an important study of a widespread raptor.

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