Buzzards – the stray dogs of the highways

Buzzards – the stray dogs of the highways


Being widespread, many of them are forced to live in dangerous proximity to people, as competition is high. Many of them become victims of the electricity network, the hatred of hunters or the cars. The life of a Buzzard is not an easy one.

They are not too good hunters. In addition to mice, their main pray, they can only catch ill or poisoned birds or small mammals. They therefore often try to steal the prey of other birds of prey, such as Hawks and Harriers.

An interesting feature of the species is their great plumage variety. Each one has a unique pattern to differ from the others. As all other raptors, they also exhibit very clear own characters and it is very interesting to get to know more than one of them at the same time to be able to tell the differences.


Buzzards are among the most often bird victims on the road. The winter periods are tough to find food and these raptors concentrate along the road, where they can survive on the other road-kills. This seriously threatens their lives, as, busy feeding, they fail to escape the coming vehicles or take off at the last moment. The other problem is they would fly towards more open space which often is simply the next lane, where they can also get hit all of a sudden. In December and January the Centre is usually filled with Buzzards with severe fractures on their wings and legs, caused by collisions with cars.

Many of the birds that have survived such collisions cannot be recovered to a point suitable for releasing back into the wild. Most of them arrive days after the accident. In the summer the wounds are often already full of maggots or the flesh has already been completely eaten so only the bone has remained. We can only imagine what these birds cope with during that agony. In the most severe cases the euthanasia is the only humane way to save these sufferers.


Non-safeguarded facilities of the electricity distribution network are a real threat for all birds of prey. Birds often perch on distribution wires, but the real danger is hidden in the pylons. Damaged by electricity, most birds die at site, but there are also some that get burnt badly and suffer long before they die.

The Centre often receives birds with burnt feathers, skin and feet, turned into useless sticks. If only the feathers and part of the skin have been burnt, there is hope that the birds flies into the wild again after some months of moult and intensive treatment for skin regeneration. If however the even one of the feet has been damaged, the bird cannot be rescued, as raptors rely on their feet to catch their prey. The only thing that can be done is to cease the suffering of the bird as soon as possible.


All birds of prey are under the protection of the National Biodiversity Act. Disturbance, harming, killing, taking from the wild, raising in captivity are all strictly forbidden, yet…

Buzzards feed almost entirely on mice, ill, weak or poisoned small birds and mammals or carcass. Hunters, who are unaware of the specific feeding habits of the different birds of prey accuse them of “eating their game” and poachers do not miss a chance to shoot them. Most of the Buzzards become pointless victims of armed idiots.

In January 2010 we had an interesting case of a Buzzard shot with over 70 pellets in its body. The bird had the luck of having no organ hopelessly damaged. The pellets could not be extracted, as we would have had to mince the bird looking for the pellets! After some rehabilitation the bird was released back into the wild.


Unfortunately the use of poisonous seeds within agriculture is not a rare case. This is done to combat rodents, but the real effect is killing vast numbers of seed-eating birds, followed by many animals feeding on the poisoned birds and rodents. Buzzards are also affected by this insanity, as they use the chance to feed on animals they would not typically manage to catch.


The first year of each Buzzard is a real challenge. Many of them die especially during their first year. The poor hunters, or the ones that do not manage to find enough carcass die in the tough winter months. Bothered by internal parasites and irregular food of poor quality they gradually weaken and starve to death. The necropsy of such birds fails to find any sign of fat, the breast-bone is sharp and as a knife, the skin is dry as paper. Large numbers of internal parasites of various species are also often found.

Buzzards are not scientifically interesting, as their population is big. Therefore, no studies for their population trends are being done. From a human point of view, however, the fact that so many of these creatures become victims of pointless cruelty raises great concern.

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It is very likely that every one of you eventually comes across a Buzzard in distress some day. Hit by a car, shot or poisoned, there is no harm in stopping. Inform the Regional Inspectorate of Environment and Waters (RIEW) in the area where you found the bird. If you don’t have their contacts, call us. We will inform them on your behalf and tell you what to do next.

In most of the cases you should collect the bird, bewaring the feet. Feet are raptors’ main weapon. If you cover the bird with a rag or a jacket, you would have the advantage of not being seen during the capture. It is alright to place the Buzzard in a well-closed box with ventilation holes to transport it safely. Don’t leave the bird die suffering!

Note that just calling while on the road is not sufficient. The Rescue Centre has such a limited team that it would be too difficult to send someone to locate it, even if it is close to Stara Zagora. There are exceptional cases when we do go for the bird and it is already gone. This happens as despite the poor condition the bird can move immediately after being spotted. In addition to that, its plumage is perfectly matching the grass and bushes along the road. The search goes with a frenetic looking around the area, in most cases in vain. If the bird moves towards the lane, it is most certainly going to die and thus compromise the entire rescue effort. It is better to collect the bird as soon as you spot it!

Liubomila Krivoshieva – Wildlife Rehabilitator
Wildlife Rescue Centre
Green Balkans
phone: + 359 885 22 84 86