Wednesday, September 10, 2014

What is a Buzzard?

When you hear or see the word “buzzard”, what do you think of?  Does a picture of a vulture pop into your mind?  I am going to tell you what buzzard really means in this blog.  Also I will focus on a very special bird and her personal history, species’ natural history, and some wonderful and quirky facts about this specific bird.
Keeoo, World Bird Sanctuary’s dark morph Augur Buzzard (photo: Lisbeth Hodges) 
The special bird I would like to introduce is an Augur Buzzard (Buteo augur) and her name is Keeoo.  She is one of my favorite birds that I work with at the World Bird Sanctuary.  She was hatched in our propagation department at the sanctuary in 1992, so this year she is celebrating her 22nd year at WBS.  She has a great personality.  She is patient with new handlers, curious about her surroundings, and will vocalize when she recognizes people she knows, like me. 
Augur Buzzard in Flight_Uganda (photo: by Tom Tarrant from the Wikipdia files) 
Augur Buzzards are native to central Africa, more specifically south Sudan, eastern Congo, Ethiopia, Uganda, and Somalia.  The type of habitat they thrive in varies from plains to grasslands to forests in Africa.  Like many other Birds of Prey, these beautiful birds are monogamous (one single mate) during breeding season.  Some of these birds will even stay together after the breeding season is over.  They build their stick nests on cliffs or in large strong trees.  The female will lay from one to three eggs per clutch (group of eggs or chicks) and will start to incubate the first egg immediately after it is laid.  Because of this, usually only one chick will survive if all the eggs hatch.  The first chick to hatch will be older and stronger, therefore fight for more food.  The females will stay at the nest with the clutch most of the time, except when she needs to feed herself.  As with all Birds of Prey, they are carnivores (meat eaters).  An Augur Buzzard’s diet consists of eating small mammals, reptiles, other birds, and large insects. 

A light morph Augur Buzzard_Lake Manyara, Tanzania (photo: by D. Gordon E. Robertson from the Wikipedia files) 
Now let’s define what buzzard really means.  Most Americans see a vulture and immediately think buzzard.  In Europe, Asia, and Africa buzzards are what people from the U.S. call hawks.  When European settlers came over to North America, they noticed the vultures and mistook them for the buzzards they would commonly see in Europe. Unfortunately the buzzard name stuck with our American vultures.   Augur Buzzards are the most common “hawks” in Africa just like their closely related relative in the United States.  If you were thinking the Red-tailed Hawk as the closely related relative, then you’re right! 
A view of Keeoo’s tail feathers_note the similarity to a Red-tailed Hawk (photo: Gay Schroer)

View of Keeoo with wings raised_note the similarity to a Red-tailed Hawk (photo: Gay Schroer 
The lifespan for animals in captivity and in the wild can be vastly different.  Wild animals will almost always have a shorter lifespan then captive ones.  Augur Buzzards range from 20-25 years in the wild while captive Augurs have been known to live 35-40 years. 

These beautiful birds also weigh less than you may think.  They only weigh about 2 – 3 ½ lbs (1000g-1500g) with females being larger than the males.  It’s also pretty amazing that these birds can be two different color morphs; a light morph or a dark morph.  Keeoo is a dark morph while one of the others pictured in this blog is a light morph.

Keeoo is available for adoption in our Adopt a Bird program.  To find out more information, call 636-861-3225 or visit the Adopt A Bird section of our website HERE.(LINK)  All adoption donations are tax deductible. 

This season Keeoo can be seen at the Monsanto Environmental Education Center (also known as the visitor’s center) at the World Bird Sanctuary, which is open daily from 8am-5pm.  Keeoo is a very beautiful bird.  You should stop on by and visit her! 

Submitted by Lisbeth Hodges, World Bird Sanctuary Naturalist 

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