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Buzzards and Kestrels

Predatory aeronautical artists

The bird protection area here on the Lower Rhine, with its wetland meadows, provides a refuge mainly to endangered ground-nesting birds, such as the black-tailed godwit or the lapwing. It is also a popular winter quarters for wild Arctic geese. You can seem them here in their thousands in the winter months. But other birds can be seen here, too, for example birds of prey such as the buzzard. The landscape here, with its pastures, wetland meadows, alluvial woods and rows of poplar, is ideal for it. Over the open fields and meadows you can often see this up-to 50-centimetre long, medium-sized bird of prey with a wing span of more than a metre and its circling gliding flight and hear its typical miaowing call. The colour of its plumage varies from almost white to dark brown - something that is unique among central European birds. The buzzard most likes to hunt mice, but occasionally also birds, weakened rabbits or frogs. Insects and worms make a pleasant change. Buzzards are very faithful to their territory and breeding pairs often stay together for their whole lives - which can be more than 20 years. Every year, the pairs rear two to four chicks, mostly in the same high eyrie until they seek out their own territory a few kilometres away after six to ten weeks. The kestrel also prefers high nests, often in tall, urban buildings. It is thus considered to be a follower of human activity and is one of the few winners of urbanisation because towers, barns or tall buildings have opened up additional habitats to it. Its prey and breeding patterns are very similar to those of the buzzard, but its calls sound completely different, for example it is like this in flight, or like this in the eyrie. It is the second most common bird of prey here, although, strictly speaking, falcons (the kestrel is a member of the falcon family) are no longer classed as birds of prey, but form an order of their own. Smaller than the buzzard, it can mainly be recognised by its characteristic hovering flight, when it beats its wings rapidly while staying in the same place to target its prey. And we can only wonder at its eyesight because it follows the urine trail of mice. It can even find its reflection in UV light under a covering of snow.

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