Bird O'clock

Unleashing the Majestic Augur Buzzard: Everything You Need to Know

The Augur Buzzard, also known as Buteo augur, is a raptor that belongs to the Accipitridae family. These birds can be found in the savannas, grasslands, and woodlands of sub-Saharan Africa.

With its powerful wings and sharp talons, the Augur Buzzard is an impressive bird of prey that can take down prey much larger than itself. In this article, we will delve into the different aspects of the Augur Buzzard’s identification, including its field identification and similar species.

We will also take an in-depth look at the bird’s plumage and molts.

Identification

Field Identification

The Augur Buzzard stands out with its large size, ranging from 56-66 cm (22-26 inches) long and having a wingspan of 135-160 cm (53-63 inches). The male Augur Buzzard is slightly smaller than the female, and their wings are slightly broader.

The bird has a broad, rounded tail, and its wings are long and pointed, with a noticeable bulge near the wrist. Its head is round and its bill is black and hooked.

The bird’s legs are yellow and are feathered halfway down. During flight, the bird’s wings are held in a shallow “V” shape, and you can notice the deep, rust-colored tone of its plumage.

When seen from above, one can see the bird’s dark wings contrasted with white wing linings and white rump. When in flight, one can also see the bird’s black-tipped tail, earning it the nickname “Black-tailed Hawk.”

Similar Species

The Augur Buzzard looks quite similar to the Tawny Eagle, with both birds sharing similar plumage patterns and habitats. However, the Tawny Eagle has a larger bill and is heavier than the Augur Buzzard, with yellow eyes as opposed to the buzzard’s yellow-orange eyes.

The Eagle’s feathers also have less contrast between black and brown. Another bird that may be confused with an Augur Buzzard is the African Fish Eagle.

The African Fish Eagle is larger than the Augur Buzzard and is more likely to be found near water bodies. The Fish Eagle has a whiter head and tail and wider feathers than the Augur Buzzard.

Plumages

The Augur Buzzard has two distinct plumages – a juvenile plumage and an adult plumage. The juvenile Augur Buzzard has brownish-black plumage on the upperparts with buff-brown feather edges.

The bird’s underparts can range from buffy-white to warm brown with dark streaks. Its head is creamy-white with dark brown streaks on the crown and nape.

Once the bird has matured, it develops its adult plumage, which is deep brown to chestnut on the upperparts and white to buffy-brown underneath. The bird’s head, neck, and upper breast are generally paler, and the bird’s eyes now turn from a light grey to a bright yellow-orange.

Molts

The Augur Buzzard undergoes two molts every year – a pre-basic molt and a post-basic molt. The pre-basic molt typically occurs between January and June, and the post-basic molt occurs between August and December.

During these molts, the bird loses its feathers and grows new ones. In conclusion, the Augur Buzzard is a majestic bird of prey that stands out with its large wingspan and deep chestnut plumage.

However, identification can be tricky considering the similar species found in the same habitat. With the knowledge of its field identification, plumage, and molts, birding enthusiasts can easily identify the Augur Buzzard in the wild.

Systematics History

The Augur Buzzard, scientifically known as Buteo augur, is a prominent species in the Butwo family of predatory birds. The bird was first described in the year 1823 by Wilhelm Heinrich Kramer, a German naturalist who worked in South Africa.

Initially, Kramer named the bird Falco Augur, which later changed to Buteo augur.

Geographic Variation

The Augur Buzzard is found primarily throughout the African continent, with a range that stretches from Senegal in the West to Ethiopia in the East, and down to South Africa. Within this vast range, various morphological and behavioral differences occur between different populations.

Subspecies

Due to the geographic variations across its range, the Augur Buzzard is comprised of several subspecies. The following are some of the most well-known subspecies of the bird:

1.

Buteo augur augur: This subspecies is found in the East African region, with a distribution that stretches from Ethiopia to Tanzania. The bird is typically characterized by its rufous nuchal collar and predominantly dark plumage.

2. Buteo augur schlegeli: This subspecies is found in the southern parts of Africa, covering a range that extends from Angola to South Africa.

It is characterized by its broad wings and pure white underparts. 3.

Buteo augur vosseleri: Found only in the Bale Mountains of Ethiopia, this subspecies is notable for its deep rufous coloration and the lack of white plumage on its underparts.

Related Species

The Augur Buzzard is closely related to several other species of Birds of Prey, with which it can be easily confused. These species include the Tawny Eagle, the Lesser Spotted Eagle, and the Bateleur Eagle.

All of these species share similar physical characteristics, such as broad wings and robust bodies, which help them to be successful hunters in their respective ecological niches.

Historical Changes to Distribution

Historically, the Augur Buzzard was a bird that was widespread throughout much of Africa, including Madagascar. However, over the last few centuries, human development and the introduction of non-native plant and animal species have caused significant changes in the distribution of the bird.

In particular, the destruction of habitat resulting from urbanization and agriculture has caused the bird’s populations to decline significantly. The loss of habitat has led to the fragmentation of previously continuous populations of the bird, which has reduced the genetic diversity of the species.

Additionally, human activities such as hunting and trapping have also contributed to the decline of Augur Buzzards. This has been particularly damaging in regions where these birds are seen as a nuisance to local farmers who are trying to protect their crops.

Conservation Efforts

Given the widespread declines in Augur Buzzard populations, several conservation organizations are taking steps to protect this iconic bird of prey. These organizations focus on educating people about the importance of conserving the bird’s natural habitats and the need to protect the species from human interference.

In some areas, trappers have also been trained in alternative methods of catching prey, which can help to reduce the numbers of birds inadvertently caught in traps. These measures, along with habitat restoration and protection efforts such as the creation of nature reserves and national parks, are likely to help the Augur Buzzard continue to thrive in the future.

Conclusion

The Augur Buzzard is an impressive and important bird of prey that is found throughout sub-Saharan Africa. However, changes in its distribution over the last few centuries have led to declines in many populations.

Fortunately, conservation efforts by various organizations are beginning to change this trend, and there is hope that the Augur Buzzard will continue to be a prominent member of the African ecosystem for generations to come.

Habitat

The Augur Buzzard is a bird species that inhabits a wide range of environments in sub-Saharan Africa. This bird of prey can be found in habitats as diverse as savannas, grasslands, woodland, and montane forests.

The bird is not restricted to any one particular type of vegetation and can adapt to a variety of ecosystems, although it is usually found in more open habitats. The bird is not restricted to a particular altitude and can be found from sea level to over 4000 meters.

In general, the subspecies Buteo augur vosseleri is more common in montane areas of Ethiopia and Bale mountains. The bird’s habitat is usually determined by the availability of prey and the presence of suitable perches, such as trees, rocks, and tall grasses.

The buzzard typically requires trees for nesting, and parts of the population require caves or rocky outcrops for their nesting sites. In savanna habitats, these birds can be seen perching on power poles or acacia trees, while in forest areas, they prefer to come down to the forest floor to hunt.

Movements and Migration

The Augur Buzzard is generally a non-migratory bird species and remains within its range throughout the year. However, populations in South Africa appear to migrate in response to seasonal changes in available food resources.

There appears to be limited movement of juvenile birds from breeding grounds to areas outside their breeding range, mainly inexperienced birds looking for new areas to exploit. In general, adult birds are known to stay in one location throughout the year.

Female birds are known to have wandering territories, while males exhibit territoriality. During breeding season, male birds usually display behavior which includes displaying, calling and chasing intruders off their territory.

The Augur Buzzard’s movement patterns are primarily driven by the availability of food. The birds are opportunistic hunters that prey on a wide variety of animals, including rodents, lizards, snakes, birds, and small mammals.

In areas with a sufficient supply of prey, the birds will remain in one location. During drought years and in poor habitat areas, Augur Buzzards are known to fly long distances to find food.

The birds have a remarkable ability to cross large bodies of water, which can help them expand their range in response to changing environmental conditions. It is important to note that the majority of Augur Buzzard movements are local and seasonal, and this is especially evident in areas where rainfall and food sources are seasonal.

Being a sedentary bird species, the birds need adequate food supply and suitable perching places year-round, so they remain in the same region.

Conservation Status

The Augur Buzzard is classified as a species of Least Concern according to the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN). However, habitat loss and hunting are the primary threats to the species, especially in parts of East and West Africa.

Habitat destruction in savanna and woodland areas is a major concern for the species. Bush fires, logging, and agriculture have caused significant declines in Augur Buzzard populations.

Hunting, either for sport or as perceived threats to livestock, is also a major contributor to the decline of local populations of this bird of prey. Conservation measures are needed to protect areas that are critical for the bird’s survival.

In addition, educating local communities about the importance of protecting these birds and their habitats is essential to ensure their long-term survival.

Conclusion

The Augur Buzzard is a remarkable bird of prey that adapts to a variety of habitats in sub-Saharan Africa. Its movements are generally local and driven by the availability of food, with migration being largely limited to local and seasonal movements around its home territory.

Habitat loss and hunting are major threats to the species, and conservation measures are needed to protect the bird’s critical habitats.

Diet and Foraging

The Augur Buzzard, being a bird of prey, is carnivorous and feeds mainly on small mammals, reptiles, and birds. The bird is an opportunistic feeder and can consume prey of various sizes and types, depending on availability.

Its foraging behavior is influenced by the availability of prey, with the bird usually hunting for food by hovering above its prey and then swooping down for the kill.

Feeding

The bird’s feeding behavior is often observed from a perch, where it can monitor its environment for prey with its keen vision. It is not uncommon to see the bird perched on a treetop or rock, watching its surroundings, from where it will suddenly dive towards prey when it spots it.

The bird has a particularly keen sense of sight, which enables it to locate prey from very long distances. Once prey has been spotted, the bird flies above it, hovering in the air, and then swoops down with its talons extended to catch its prey.

This dive can be reached at speeds of up to 80 km/hr, giving it an advantage over its prey.

Diet

The Augur Buzzard feeds mainly on small mammals such as rodents, hares, and small antelopes. It also preys upon reptiles such as lizards and snakes, and birds such as doves and guinea fowl.

As an opportunistic feeder, the bird also feeds on carrion or scavenge animal carcasses from other animals like vultures.

Metabolism and Temperature Regulation

Being a bird of prey, the Augur Buzzard has a higher metabolism than other birds, which allows it to maintain its activity level for extended periods. The bird is active during daylight hours, and its body temperature varies according to its environment.

When flying in colder temperatures, the bird will increase its metabolism to maintain its optimal body temperature, while in warmer temperatures, it will lower it to prevent overheating.

Sounds and Vocal

Behavior

The Augur Buzzard is not known for its vocalization, and its vocal behavior is primarily used for territorial defense or during the breeding season. The sound produced by the bird is a mix of whistling and screeching, which usually follows aggressive behavior such as chasing off another bird from its territory.

Vocalization

During territorial defense, the Augur Buzzard will emit a loud, high-pitched whistle, which is often accompanied by displays of aggressive behavior such as chasing off other birds from its territory. This vocalization is a method of communicating with other birds in its vicinity and signaling that it is defending a particular area.

During the breeding season, the bird’s vocalization becomes more complex, with males calling loudly to attract mates and establish their territory. The sound produced during this period is a long, rising whistle, which is distinctive to each individual bird.

Conclusion

The Augur Buzzard is a highly adaptable bird of prey, feeding on a range of prey that includes small mammals, reptiles, and birds. Its foraging behavior is characterized by opportunism, with the bird often keeping a watchful eye for prey from a high perch.

Although not known for its vocalization, the bird’s sound is a mix of whistling and screeching, which is primarily used for territorial defense and breeding purposes. Being a bird of prey, the Augur Buzzard has a higher metabolism than other birds, which allows it to maintain its optimal body temperature.

Behavior

The Augur Buzzard exhibits a wide range of behaviors characteristic of birds of prey. These behaviors are essential in helping it survive in its varied habitats across sub-Saharan Africa.

Locomotion

The bird’s locomotion is primarily composed of flying, with the birds being strong fliers due to their broad wings and powerful physique. They also have acute vision, allowing them to navigate through their territories with ease.

The bird is known to soar in circles above its territories and use thermal currents to conserve energy while flying.

Self-Maintenance

The bird is fastidious when it comes to self-maintenance, with its feather-cleaning and preening activities being a frequent behavior. It keeps its claws, beak, and feathers clean, which is important in hunting and keeping off parasites.

Agonistic

Behavior

Agonistic behavior is a common behavior exhibited by the Augur Buzzard during its territorial displays. It involves charging towards the opponent, fluffing up its feathers, and producing a series of vocalizations such as screeching and scolding.

This behavior is used primarily to protect territorial boundaries. Sexual

Behavior

During the breeding season, the male Augur Buzzard will display several courtship behaviors to attract a mate.

These behaviors can include aerial displays, such as soaring with outspread wings or hovering. The bird will also produce a series of vocalizations, including screeching or whistling, to call out to the female.

Breeding

The Augur Buzzard breeds between April and August, with some variation depending on region. The breeding system is monogamous, with the pairs nesting together, sometimes with their young from the previous year.

Males will establish mating territories before the breeding season starts; however, females will wander before choosing a mate and selecting their permanent nest site. During nesting time, the male Augur Buzzard will gather food for the female and their offspring.

Nesting materials are collected and arranged in a platform, with about four eggs being laid and incubated by the female for 35 days. Both parents will help feed the chicks until they are ready to leave the nest in about 6-7 weeks.

Demography and Populations

The Augur Buzzard is distributed throughout sub-Saharan Africa and is generally considered to be a species of Least Concern by the IUCN. However, population declines have been reported in some parts of the bird’s range, especially in areas where habitat loss and hunting are major threats.

Conservation efforts are being put in place to protect the bird’s critical habitats to ensure the bird’s long-term survival. In addition, measures are being taken to reduce conflicts between humans and the Augur Buzzard, for instance, through training farmers on how to protect their crops without harming these birds.

Further, more research is needed on population demography and dynamics of the species in various parts of its range to implement effective conservation measures. It is essential to monitor population demography to understand the success or lethality of these measures and whether they are sufficient to protect the species, particularly in areas where habitat loss and human conflicts are most prominent.

Conclusion

The Augur Buzzard has adapted to a wide

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