Another conservation success story this week, but one that has been more divisive than the Avocet. Persecuted, recovered, and persecuted all over again, it is the Common Buzzard.
I suspect the Buzzard now feels like our most common bird of prey. Where once it was Sparrowhawks and Kestrels you saw in urban and suburban settings, Buzzards have gone from birds of the wilderness to a roadside staple.
From the 1800s through into the 1960s Buzzards were controlled by a range of factors. Legal and illegal killing by humans, disease decimating their main prey species, poisons leading to nest failures. All these conspired to keep the buzzard numbers artificially low. Which suited certain interests more than others.
They are indeed now our most common and widespread bird of prey, with as many as 80,000 pairs spread across every part of the UK. But, as with Magpies, when a bird that our recent memory tells us exists in small numbers starts to proliferate, we assume there are ‘too many’. It’s irrelevant if it’s based on fact, we fix a notion of the countryside in our youth, and if that changes, we see threats and problems.
Hence, despite being no real threat to farming or shooting interests, illegal persecution remains a factor. More worryingly, we are seeing increasing efforts to reduce protections and allow legal persecution through shooting, poisoning, and nest destruction. With DEFRA and Natural England slightly cowed politically, it’s a worrying time for the Buzzard. We can but hope their plaintive mewing cries don’t again become a rarity.
The Monday Bird of the Week half-century is finally there! Here’s to another fifty…