I don’t know what it is, but since I bought Dick Forsman‘s “The Raptors of Europe and Middle East” my interest in buzzards has gone through the roof. In fact it got so bad that when we bought a new car, my only decision criteria was whether it had a full glass panorama roof or not. Come to think of it, the cruise control comes in really useful when a buzzard is cruising over the Autobahn (much to my wife’s dismay).

And so there are few things that turn my head like a Common Buzzard (Buteo buteo) even though they are really, well, common. Not that my interest says anything useful about my ability, but I seem to be learning slowly.

So, last weekend I was out in the Hungarian steppes and we came across are really interesting buzzard (well actually a few, but I’ll try stick to the story).

We had actually stopped to check a flock of geese for a few Red-breasted Goose (Branta ruficollis) that were hanging out in the area, when we scanned a few of the buzzards hanging out in the trees lining the snow-covered steppe. And one just stood out as being really different in structure.

Slowly moving closer we got a better look at the perched buzzard and by this stage were getting rather intrigued.

With some patient, we managed to get close enough to get some flight shots of the buzzard as it circled around, keeping a clean 100m distance from us.

Just look at this beauty!

As far as I can tell it is an adult male Rough-legged Buzzard (Buteo lagopus).

EDIT: Dick Forsman had the following to say about this bird:

To your buzzard. It is indeed a Rough-leg, an adult male. Adult males are very different from the other plumages, in being much darker and more heavily patterned. Particularly the underwing coverts are heavily marked, which is a good character against juveniles and adult females. Some appear almost black-and-white, while others, like this one, shows strong rufous colouration. All in all, a rather typical and easy to id. adult male.


Funny just week before last I was searching through my photos hoping to scrape up a half-decent Rough-legged Buzzard photo for my “The REAL snow birds” blog post and then this beauty showed up in my life. But all this had been inspired by Corey post “Snow Birds” in which he had a photo of a juvenile (?) Rough-legged Hawk (Buteo lagopus sanctijohannis).

So this brings me all to my question: is it really a Rough-legged Buzzard or a Rough-legged Hawk? Or, phrased another way, does anyone know or have an idea what came first, the buzzard or the hawk? Or are they both equally divergent from their origin?

Happy birding,

Dale Forbes


p.s. all photos taken with a Swarovski STM80 HD spotting scope, TLS 800 and Canon 7D and are copyrighted.


Written by Dale Forbes
Dale grew up in the forests and savannas of South Africa, developing a love for nature from a young age. After studying Zoology and Wildlife Science, he moved to Central America to continue his work in conservation biology. He is a member of BirdLife International’s Advisory Board and is Swarovski Optik’s Head of Strategic Business Development.