Common birds of prey

Common birds of prey

Common birds of prey in Central Europe

There can be found many common birds of prey in Central Europe. The ones I see most are the common buzzard (Buteo buteo), the majestic red kite (Milvus milvus), the common kestrel (Falco tinnunculus) and the black kite (Milvus migrains). Of course there are much more around than those four but I just see them less often. Find below a few sample images of the different bird species.

common birds of prey

Common buzzard (Buteo buteo)

common birds of prey

Common buzzard (Buteo buteo)

common birds of prey

Red kite (Milvus milvus)

common birds of prey

Red kite (Milvus milvus)

common birds of prey

Common kestrel (Falco tinunnculus)

common birds of prey

Common kestrel (Falco tinunnculus)

common birds of prey

Black kite (Milvus migrains)

common birds of prey

Black kite (Milvus migrains)

What are birds of prey

In taxonomy birds of prey (sometimes also called raptors) are divided into three main orders:

  • Order Accipitriformes that include diurnal birds of prey such as eagles, kites, buzzards, etc.
  • Order Falconiformes that include diurnal birds of prey such as falcons and kestrels
  • Order Strigiformes that include nocturnal birds of prey such as owls

Birds of prey are excellent hunters and are equipped with very sharp eyes and claws. You may find some useful information on their vision in this article that I did a while ago.

Common buzzard (Buteo buteo)

According to vogelwarte.ch common buzzards have the following characteristics

Length   50-57 cm
Wing span   113-128 cm
Weight   600-1300 g
Max age recorded in Switzerland   28 years 10 months

common birds of prey

A few thoughts and observations from my side

The common buzzard (Buteo buteo) might be one of the most common birds of prey in Central Europe. It appears in many different plumage colors from almost entirely white, over light brown into a very darkish brown. This probably is the reason why in French the bird is called „buse variable“. Common buzzards can be identified by their round tail and round wing shape. They primarily feed from small rodents or sometimes carrion and can be found in woodland areas. Unfortunately I see many buzzards hunting next to motorways as it seems they find a lot of food supply there. Collisions between cars and raptors therefore are no rarity. Usually common buzzards are seen alone or in pairs but when farmers harvest their crop of wheat its very common to see dozens of hunting common buzzards (along with other raptors).

Red kite (Milvus milvus)

According to vogelwarte.ch red kites have the following characteristics

Length   56-73 cm
Wing span   140-165cm
Weight   750-1300 g
Max age recorded in Switzerland   25 years 8 months

common birds of prey

A few thoughts and observations from my side

The red kite (Milvus milvus) is a large and majestic bird. In some countries such as Switzerland red kites are one of the most common birds of prey and it’s population is very stable if not even increasing. In other European countries however the bird species is decreasing rapidly. According to the „Species action plan for the red kite Milvus milvus in the European Union“ the three (out of nine mentioned) main threats are:

  • Direct poisoning from illegal baits (Impact critical)
  • Secondary poisoning from consumption of poisoned rodents (Impact high)
  • Illegal shooting and trapping (Impact medium)

Even though red kites are large animals I mostly see them „walking“ over freshly ploughed field feeding from small worms and bugs.

Common kestrel (Falco tinnunculus)

According to vogelwarte.ch common kestrels have the following characteristics

Length   32-35 cm
Wing span   71-80cm
Weight   190-300 g
Max age recorded in Switzerland   13 years 2 months

common birds of prey

A few thoughts and observations from my side

Common kestrels are another one of my favorite bird species. The swift little hunters are using a special technique to hunt mice that is called „hovering“. Hovering describes a behavior where the bird remains motionless at the same position observing the ground for prey. Other birds of prey are sharing this behavior whereas common kestrels have mastered it. Some time back I was lucky enough to take a shot of a common kestrel (Falco tinunnculus) chased by a juvenile red-footed falcon (Falco vespertinus). Unfortunately I have never had any change to find another species of the red-footed falcon as I would love to study these little guys a bit.

Black kite (Milvus migrains)

According to vogelwarte.ch black kites have the following characteristics

Length   55-60 cm
Wing span   130-155 cm
Weight   650-950 g
Max age recorded in Switzerland   23 years 10 months

common birds of prey

A few thoughts and observations from my side

Black kites (Milvus migrains) might be a bit less common then the other three mentioned birds of prey. They share similar behavior such as red kites but love to feed from dead fish. Therefore they can be spotted quite often next to lakes or rivers. Black and red kites are not always very easy to keep apart. Usually red kites have more white on the head and more red in the plumage (I have seen red kites with almost no red however). Another good characteristic is the finger count. Black kites have 6 to 7 fingers whereas red kites have 3 to 4 fingers.

Let me know your thoughts

I hope this article was helpful for you. I would love to hear back from you on what birds of prey mean to you. If there is anything you are looking for, please let me know and I try to find examples to discuss. Feel free to use the Q&A form to submit questions.

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Animals are awesome and need our protection. Don’t hurt, kill or eat animals. It’s wrong.

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