Look out for Buzzards in Duhallow!
In 2011 the Irish Raptor Study Group initiated a study on the population ecology and dynamics of Buzzards in the Republic of Ireland. Buzzards were probably once widespread in Ireland but disappeared almost completely from the island in the 19th and 20th centuries, along with our eagles, kites and osprey, due to human persecution. In recent decades Buzzards have recolonised much of northern, eastern and southern Ireland with the first documented nesting in Co. Cork as recently as 2004, although there is some evidence that Buzzards had been in Cork some years before this.
Firstly a pre-breeding “soaring survey” was undertaken from late February to mid-April 2011 across a range of randomly selected 10km squares across the country covering parts of the current buzzard range considered to be part of its core and edge distribution, as well as areas as yet thought to be outside its current range. A more intensive survey was also undertaken in Co Cork across the species range in that county. The IRSG has repeated this survey in 2012 to cover squares across the buzzard’s range that were not surveyed in 2011.
Three well-grown Buzzard chicks (Photo: Allan Mee).
Secondly, nests were checked and buzzard chicks were ringed and wing-tagged at several sites in east and north Cork as part of a long-term study. The purpose of tagging is to gain knowledge of individual dispersal, movements, and natal philopatry. We also started to collect data on nest site selection, productivity, diet and brood sex ratios in 2011 and this work will continue throughout 2012. Early indications from dietary analysis of Buzzard pellets in Cork has shown that they are feeding largely on rabbits, rats, bank voles, rooks, magpies and woodpigeons.
Buzzards generally begin breeding in their 3rd calendar year. However in Ireland many areas holding buzzards, including “core” areas, may still be highly dynamic and yet to reach a stage where the carrying capacity of buzzards is reached. Some of the questions we would like to address is whether buzzards are still increasing in density in “core” areas, whether young produced in these areas move to other high density (and presumably high quality) areas or whether young from these areas disperse to areas largely unoccupied by buzzards where they face less competition for territories but maybe of poorer quality?
Young wing-tagged Buzzard chicks (Photo: Allan Mee).
How you can help? The Duhallow holds breeding Buzzards that are at the “edge” of the species range in SW Ireland (Buzzards are as yet apparently absent west of Newmarket and are largely absent from Co. Kerry). In 2011 our North Cork study area stretched from Kilworth in the north-east west to Ballyclough. In 2012 we plan to extend this further west into Duhallow along the “edge” of the Buzzard breeding range from Castlemagner to Kanturk.
If you know of any Buzzard nesting sites in Cork please let us know. Also please help us monitor the movements of our wing-tagged birds by reporting any sightings. All buzzards wing-tagged in Co. Cork in 2011 have dark blue tags on the right wing and orange tags on the left wing. In 2012 these will be dark blue (right wing) and purple (left wing). Please help us track their movements by reporting all sightings to Dr. Allan Mee (email: firstname.lastname@example.org; tel: +353-873117608) or Tony Nagle (email: email@example.com; tel: +353-862612283).