The Common (Steppe) Buzzard

Grumeti | October 2020

The time of year has arrived once again and we are met with great numbers of common buzzards arriving at Singita Grumeti from the far reaches of Europe. Some birds may have a breeding range as far as Eastern Rusha and China!

The buzzards are passage migrants looking to spend the northern hemisphere winter in warmer conditions. From where winters are particularly cold in the northern hemispheres is where we receive more individuals reaching us here in Tanzania and further on to southern Africa.

The buzzards congregate together in great numbers, especially in the evenings over Sasakwa Hill and the Ridge Hills. I have seen them reach numbers of 80 + as they soar over valleys and hills. The birds are often a great wind direction indicator as they will often conserve flight energy by turning their head in to the wind, maintaining their flight shape whilst expelling very little energy on flapping the wings for lift.

I was walking with two friends of mine here in the Sasakwa Hills not so long ago, when Grant, Rob and I glanced up the hillside to see the huge numbers of buzzards using the hill’s updrafts to coast along the air currents. What an awesome sight! And to think that they had come from so far and decided to make the hills of Sasakwa a point of refuge just made it that extra bit more special.

Amazingly enough I have found these birds to be incredibly shy, which leads me to believe that they really might be coming from some of the furthest reaches of the planet where there is little human activity. In the end I was able to get this photo from quite a distance, using the Commiphora tree in the foreground to partially disguise myself. It is for this reason that I have included a reference picture here from Stevenson/Fanshawe – Birds of East Africa.

Keep a watchful eye out for this incredible bird that covers such great distances on its journey for survival.