Buzzards & Hawks


  • There are 48 species of buzzard and buzzard-like birds worldwide. 28 species are in the Buteo genus.
  • The Common Buzzard is native to Britain, Europe and Asia. They have the most variable plumage colourations of all diurnal raptors – near white to near black with most a chocolate brown colour.
  • Most American species of hawks: e.g. Red-tailed Hawk, Harris Hawk, Ferruginous Hawk, are actually buzzards.
  • The Ferruginous Hawk is the largest species of buzzard in the world.

The buzzard group are generally mammal hunting specialists, but readily eat carrion. In the UK we have the Common Buzzard and Rough-legged Buzzard. They are broad-winged birds with medium-length broad tails and are generally found in open areas, but close to woodlands for nesting. The large broad wings have emarginated tips giving finger-like shapes to the edge of the wing.

Common Buzzard (buteo buteo)

In America (US) the term “buzzard” is not recognised in terms of Buteo raptors, quite often vultures are referred to as “buzzards” instead. It is also occasionally used as derogatory term for birds of prey that are pests.

The Honey Buzzard is not actually a buzzard- see Kites, Harriers and Others for more information

Harris Hawk (parabuteo unicinctus)

The Harris Hawk is not a true species of buzzard with the scientific name parabuteo unicinctus. “Para” translates as “like”, so they are similar to other buzzard species. All the other species of buzzard (not in Buteo genus) originate from various parts of Central and Southern America. Some are restricted to very small areas and are quite rare due to a restricted range. The genera are: Leucopternis (10 species), Buteogallus (5 species), Parabuteo (1 species), Busarellus (1 species), Geranoaetus (1 species- this species is known as the Chilean Eagle in the UK, but it is in fact a Buzzard) and Harpyhaliaetus (2 species – they are known as Solitary Eagles, but they are Buzzards), 


  • There are 51 species of hawk worldwide with 47 recognised species in the genus Accipiter.
  • The Accipiter genus contains the largest number of individual species within diurnal raptors.
  • There are 2 species of Accipiter in the UK: Goshawk and Sparrowhawk.
  • The Hawk or Accipiter genus is the largest genus of raptors.
  • The are short-winged birds with long tails for agility through woodland.
  • These birds are mostly within the scientific genus of Accipiter. The tend to woodland or forest-living birds and are generally bird catching specialists. Their short rounded wings allow for rapid acceleration and means they are easier to pull in to avoid trees. The long tail gives great agility though the forests to chase fast moving prey.

In the UK two species exist – the Goshawk and the Sparrowhawk. They are mainly bird-catching specialist and tend to be woodland living species, although the Sparrowhawk adapted to fields and hedgerows as the woodlands were destroyed. They are also known as the hedgerow-bandit. Nowadays they have learnt to exploit towns and cities. There are large numbers of small birds, helped out by people feeding birds in the garden and also large trees in parklands, but more recently large conifer trees where they can nest safely away from cats and man. If you see a bird catching or eating a bird in your garden, it is more than likely a Sparrowhawk.

We do not permanently house a Sparrowhawk at the centre. We do have many Sparrowhawks each year that are brought into the centre for rehabilitation. The main reason being wing injuries which are caused by them flying into windows, either while chasing a bird that also flies into the window, or by making the mistake thinking that they can fly through the house or conservatory as they can see light on the other side. In general, a stunned bird is released the same or the next day, while a sprained wing can take about 2 weeks to recover sufficiently for the bird to be released.

Northern Goshawk (accipiter gentilis)

Some species of Eagle are referred to as Hawk-Eagles, as they have short rounded wings and long tails – see Eagles for more information.

Two species of Falcon have evolved the characteristics of hawks as they are forest-living species. They are the New Zealand Falcon and the Mauritius Kestrel.