1911 Encyclopædia Britannica/Buzzard

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BUZZARD, a word derived from the Lat. Buteo, through the Fr. Busard, and used in a general sense for a large group of diurnal birds-of-prey, which contains, among many others, the species usually known as the common buzzard (Buteo vulgaris, Leach), though the English epithet is nowadays hardly applicable. The name buzzard, however, belongs quite as rightfully to the birds called in books "harriers," which form a distinct subfamily of Falconidae under the title Circinae, and by it one species, the moor-buzzard (Circus aeruginosus), is still known in such places as it inhabits. "Puttock" is also another name used in some parts of England, but perhaps is rather a synonym of the kite (Milvus ictinus). Though ornithological writers are almost unanimous in distinguishing the buzzards as a group from the eagles, the grounds usually assigned for their separation are but slight, and the diagnostic character that can be best trusted is probably that in the former the bill is decurved from the base, while in the latter it is for about a third of its length straight. The head, too, in buzzards is short and round, while in the eagles it is elongated. In a general way buzzards are smaller than eagles, though there are several exceptions to this statement, and have their plumage more mottled. Furthermore, most if not all of the buzzards, about which anything of the kind is with certainty known, assume their adult dress at the first moult, while the eagles take a longer time to reach maturity. The buzzards are fine-looking birds, but are slow and heavy of flight, so that in the old days of falconry they were regarded with infinite scorn, and hence in common English to call a man "a buzzard" is to denounce him as stupid. Their food consists of small mammals, young birds, reptiles, amphibians and insects—particularly beetles—and thus they never could have been very injurious to the game-preserver, if indeed they were not really his friends, though they have fallen under his ban; but at the present day they are so scarce that in England their effect, whatever it may be, is inappreciable. Buzzards are found over the whole world with the exception of the Australian region, and have been split into many genera by systematists. In the British Islands are two species, one resident (the B. vulgaris already mentioned), and now almost confined to a few wooded districts; the other the rough-legged buzzard (Archibuteo lagopus), an irregular winter-visitant, sometimes arriving in large bands from the north of Europe, and readily distinguishable from the former by being feathered down to the toes. The honey-buzzard (Pernis apivorus), a summer-visitor from the south, and breeding, or attempting to breed, yearly in the New Forest, does not come into the subfamily Buteoninae, but is probably the type of a distinct group, Perninae, of which there are other examples in Africa and Asia. In America the name "buzzard" is popularly given to the turkey-buzzard or turkey-vulture (Cathartes Aura).

(A. N.)