The upland buzzard (Buteo hemilasius) is a bird of prey in the Accipitridae family that lives across the majority of Asia. This is a raptor of the least concern that is known for migrating to avoid snowy areas that cover the tracks of prey.
With a similar plumage to other birds of prey like the Himalayan buzzard and long-legged buzzard, it can often be tricky to distinguish the species.
Here is the ultimate guide to the upland buzzard!
Interestingly, the upland buzzard is the largest buzzard in the world, as well as the largest member of the Buteo family. This bird of prey sizes at 22-28” in length with a wingspan of 4 ft 8” to 5 ft 3”.
However, the sizes of the upland buzzard species vary depending on the location, so these are just the average size guides.
The upland buzzard is so large for a buzzard that they look something like a mix between a buzzard and an eagle, with their large wingspan and tails. There are two morphs of the upland buzzard: the pale and dark morphs.
The pale upland buzzards are predominantly beige and light brown in color, with a wash of white across their bodies and a yellowish, earthy-toned head.
Their chests are almost completely white, until the chest meets the abdomen where dark brown patches are dispersed irregularly. This darkness travels to the belly and flanks, and then the tail turns gray and dark bands.
Dark upland buzzards, on the other hand, are almost predominantly dark brown and black in color throughout the body. The feather patterns are similar to those exhibited on the pale upland buzzard morph, but are far darker.
These buzzards possess either dark or light eyes (depending on their morph) with long, sharp talons and a pointed hooked beak.
Male Vs Female
There isn’t much to say about the difference between a male and female upland buzzard.
Like most birds of prey, upland buzzards are sexually dimorphic animals, which means that there aren’t many physical differences between the two sexes. Female upland buzzards tend to be larger than the males, however.
Are They Aggressive?
Upland buzzards don’t tend to reside close to human settlements, so it’s not easy to say whether they are aggressive towards humans.
It’s very, very rare for a human to be attacked by any buzzard, so it’s safe to say that upland buzzards aren’t aggressive towards humans.
For animals, however, it’s a different story. Like all buzzard species, the upland buzzard is a skilled hunter and predator to a variety of animals on the ground, and their killing tactics certainly aren’t friendly.
Their sharp talons and beaks and successfully kill an animal within mere minutes, making them a deadly bird of prey.
What Adaptations Do They Have?
The upland buzzard hasn’t been documented as much as other birds of prey species, so it’s hard to say what adaptations they have made to make them the hunters they are today.
As with most buzzard species, however, the upland buzzard has adapted to become a successful hunter by developing incredibly sharp talons and a strong beak. They have also developed a thick coat of feathers to deal with the cold Asian climates.
Breeding / Reproduction Behavior
The breeding season for the upland buzzard is between April and August, with the majority of eggs being laid in May.
The courting and mating rituals are largely unknown for this species, but it is suggested that the rituals are similar to most buzzard species.
This usually includes an aerial dance performed by the male above the female as he makes distinctive calls and sounds.
Once the mating has been successful, the female will lay a clutch of 2-4 eggs, plus they have the ability to lay a replacement clutch if something were to happen to the previous clutch.
The incubation period can last anywhere from 30-38 days, and then the chicks enter the fledging period at 45 days old.
Their Calls / Sounds
The call of an upland buzzard is said to be not that dissimilar from a common buzzard (though far less noisy). The call sounds like a prolonged mewing.
What Do They Eat? (Diet)
Like most birds of prey, the upland buzzards will eat just about anything they can catch. The most common food items in their diet include small mammals like voles, squirrels, and pika as well as small birds.
Nothing will stop an upland buzzard from eating reptiles like snakes and lizards and an array of insects, either.
Interestingly, voles are such an important part of the upland buzzard’s diet because vole density correlates to clutch size and fledging success.
When it comes to hunting, the upland buzzard spends most of its time either perched on a tree top looking down at prey or hovering above them in the air before swooping down at great speeds.
Where Do They Live? (Habitat)
Upland buzzards are distributed across the majority of Asia, with the central area being China and Mongolia.
These birds are also known to breed and appear in Siberia, Tajikistan, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Tibet, Nepal, Bhutan, North Korea, South Korea, Northern India, Iran, and Japan.
The upland buzzard is commonly found in steppe and desert areas, as well as rocky areas and the edges of forests in Russia, fields and open areas in Tibet, and mountains and foothills in Kazakhstan.
What Are Their Nesting Habits?
The upland buzzard isn’t known for making the most long-lasting, secure nests. They tend to make their nests out of sticks lined with wool and rags, which are usually located under a bush, amongst a pile of rocks, or on a rocky cliff.
It’s a good reason they can make another clutch if their first clutch goes missing, because being so close to the ground allows predators near the eggs.
How Long Do They Live For? (Lifespan)
Unfortunately, little is known about the lifespan of the upland buzzard. It is assumed that the average lifespan for a wild upland buzzard ranges between 12-18 years.
What Predators Do They Have?
When it comes to their prey, there isn’t a predator above an adult upland buzzard. Like with most birds of prey, the upland buzzard is the ultimate predator in its immediate environment.
However, for juveniles and unhatched chicks, egg-eating reptiles and mammals can easily be a predator to the unsuspecting chicks and eggs.
As with most birds of prey, deforestation and climate change is always going to be a huge and unavoidable predator to the upland buzzard. However, as their range is so expansive, habitat destruction isn’t too much of a concern for this species.
What Are Their Feathers Like?
Both the pale and dark upland buzzard morphs exhibit similar patterns on their feathers.
The pale morphs, obviously, have a paler overall coloring than the dark morphs, but the feathers are all irregular to one another when it comes to the distinctive dark brown markings and patches.
The most distinctive feathers on an upland buzzard are its wing feathers. At the end of the wings are several feathers that stretch past the wing itself, making for an elegant appearance when in flight.
What Does Their Poop Look Like?
Unfortunately, there isn’t much scientific research on the poop of the upland buzzard.
It can be assumed that the poop is predominantly brown or black with a liquid-like consistency that could possess bits of white due to the uric acid that cleans the bacteria from the food they eat.
Do They Migrate?
The upland buzzard is a partial migratory animal, which means that they sort of migrate.
These birds aren’t likely to fly great distances for any reason other than to avoid the snow, which is said to be because the snow covers up the tracks of prey, which makes it harder for the birds to eat. Plus, their prey is likely to hide during the snow seasons.
In most cases, upland buzzards won’t move from one side of one country to the other, but they will fly far to find an ideal place to nest or find food.
According to the IUCN Red List, the upland buzzard has a conservation status of Least Concern.
It does seem a bit ironic, as this is a fairly uncommon species, but as they aren’t exposed to threats such as poaching or extreme deforestation, then the population figures aren’t considered to decline.
Still, this doesn’t mean we shouldn’t be worried about the species. There are still a lot of gray areas in the research about upland buzzards, so it is imperative that we educate ourselves on potential threats that could contribute to declining population figures.
Upland buzzards have been spotted feeding off the eggs of other bird species, which is fairly uncommon amongst birds.
A happy clutch and successful fledging almost always correlates to the number of voles in the area. The more voles to eat, the happier the upland buzzards!
The upland buzzard is known for flying with its wings in a distinctive ‘V’ shape.