Wednesday, Dec. 14, 2005
* Japanese name: Nosuri
* Scientific name: Buteo buteo
* Description: Buzzards are fairly common raptors in Japan, where they are among the larger of the birds of prey, typically growing to between 51-57 cm in length with a 110-130-cm wingspan. They are chunky birds with broad, blunt-ended wings and short, broad tails. When seen perching (often on telephone poles and electricity pylons), their robust shape and short head will help identify them. When seen soaring, the rounded wings and the broad tail (without a pronounced "V"-shape) helps to distinguish buzzards from kites. Also, the wings are swept upward and forward when soaring. They are dull brown with paler sections in the primary feathers. Buzzards have a loud mewing call that sounds like "pee-uuu."
* Where to find them: Common buzzards live all over Japan except in Hokkaido, where it's too cold. They can be seen in valleys, forests and farms. The two subspecies in Japan are both on the Red Data list of endangered species. One, the oshiroi subspecies, is critically endangered; the other, the toyoshimai subspecies, is listed as endangered. It's worth noting that in North America, the word "buzzard" is used to refer to vultures.
* Food: Small mammals such as rabbits, as well as other birds and carrion.
* Special features: Buzzards are socially monogamous, which means that males defend a territory and help raise chicks with a mate. But that's not to say they don't stray away from home if the chance arises. The male's loud call is a signal to other males of his territory. Males court females by flying together in broad circles while calling, and also by diving toward the female. They also perform dramatic "sky dances" by flying high and then diving steeply, followed by a rapid ascending spiral flight. These courtship flights usually occur in spring, in late morning and early afternoon. Loss of habitat and food shortages are the main reasons that buzzards have declined in number in Japan. Recent research has shown that they suffer from competition too, both from other buzzards, and from other birds, such as crows.
PHOTO COURTESY OF BIO-IMAGE NET