What Do Buzzards and Vultures Have in Common?
Buzzards and vultures may seem to be ubiquitous and well-known birds; nevertheless, these two names may really be rather confusing, as they are often confused with birds of quite different species. What exactly is the difference between buzzards and vultures, and how can birdwatchers avoid making these potentially perplexing mistakes?
What precisely is a vulture?
It is well knowledge that vultures are large scavenging birds with bald heads and long necks. Vultures have a poor reputation because of their fondness for feeding on dead animals, which contributes to their appearance.
However, despite their unattractive appearance, these birds provide an important ecological function by decomposing dead animals and therefore reducing the risk of disease transmission to other animals as well as to people. There are 23 different species of vultures around the globe, which may be divided into two categories.
Cathartidae is the family of birds that contains all seven species of vultures found in the New World, whereas Accipitridae is home to all 16 species of vultures found in the Old World. Despite the fact that both species are very distantly related to one another, however, they do share a lot of recognizable traits, and both groups may be clearly identified as vultures due to these similarities.
What exactly is a buzzard?
There are a total of 26 bird species in the world that are given the name buzzard, some of which include the European honey-buzzard, lizard buzzard, forest buzzard, and long-legged buzzard. There is at least one species of a buzzard that can be found on every continent with the exception of Antarctica.
Buteos, which are more often known as buzzards, belong to the hawk family. These are huge to medium-sized hawks with wide wings that are well suited for soaring on thermal currents. The majority of buzzards like a somewhat wide area where they can readily fly through the air and look for their meal.
Buzzards, in contrast to vultures, have to search for their food and prefer to catch live prey. However, they may sometimes dine on a cadaver, particularly when other food sources are low.
The very same species of birds, open-country buteos, are referred to as hawks over a large portion of North and South America. Buzzards are the name given to similar birds in Europe, Africa, Asia, Indonesia, and Australia.
For instance, if the common red-tailed hawk were to be discovered in Europe, it most likely would be referred to as a red-tailed buzzard. Even in field guides, the rough-legged buzzard (Buteo lagopus) is more often referred to as the rough-legged hawk in its native habitat of North America.
It Is Possible to Refer to Vultures as Buzzards.
When the common names of these two types of birds overlap, it might be difficult to tell vultures and buzzards apart. In North America, certain birds are known by both the term buzzard and the name vulture, although in Europe, Africa, and Asia, these two types of birds are distinguished by their names and are kept separate.
During the early stages of European colonization in New England and other regions of North America, the newcomers assigned names of birds they were already acquainted with to species that were previously unknown to them.
Because of the striking resemblance between the orange-red breast of the American robin and that of the European robin, despite the fact that the two species of birds are not closely related, the American robin was given the name of its European counterpart.
The early colonists of North America gave the name “buzzard” to the enormous, flying birds they saw above them because their flight patterns seemed to be similar to those of the buzzards seen in Europe.
Buteo hawks were not the birds that those colonists were really seeing; instead, they were witnessing turkey vultures and black vultures, both of which are common in eastern North America. Buzzards, turkey buzzards, and black buzzards are all names that are often used to refer to North American vultures even in modern times. The name remained.
Buzzards versus Vultures – Which Person Is Which?
When it comes down to it, the answer to the question of whether a bird is a buzzard or a vulture depends on who you ask and where you ask them. In North America, a vulture is a vulture, a buzzard is a vulture, and a hawk is a hawk.
There is no distinction between the three. In much of the rest of the globe, a vulture is always referred to as a vulture, a buzzard is always referred to as a hawk, and a hawk is occasionally referred to as a buzzard.
Having said that, there are other species of birds that go by the term hawk but are not buzzards. Because of this, a single species of bird may be referred to by multiple distinct names depending on the setting in which it is found. For example, the turkey vulture may be called:
- Turkey vulture (widely recognized common name)
- Turkey buzzard (regional common name or European variation for traveling birders)
- TUVU (four-character bird shorthand code)
- TV (more casual name code)
- Vulture or buzzard (single reference when no similar species occur regionally)
- Aspect of Cathartes (scientific name, universally recognized worldwide)
Because of the potential for the misunderstanding caused by common names, it is essential for birdwatchers to become familiar with the scientific names of birds, particularly when they travel to various regions of the globe in search of birds.
When doing research, compiling lists, or reporting sightings of birds, using their scientific names eliminates any possibility of mistake regarding which species is which. Ornithologists and wildlife authorities, in particular, will employ scientific names in their reports to ensure that it is completely obvious and unmistakable whose birds they are referring to.
Knowing the distinctions between buzzards and vultures, as well as the ways in which various terminology may be used to refer to the same birds, can assist birdwatchers in more effectively communicating the species of birds they see and in sharing their observations with other people.