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Do You Know What a Buzzard is?

Asking, “Do you know what a buzzard is?” isn’t a frivolous question. If you have lived in North America your entire life, the chances are that you may not know the actual answer. Here is the reason why.

Buzzards don’t occur in North America. Before thinking that this must be incorrect, let’s take a look at what a true buzzard is.

True buzzards are raptors that look a great deal like a hawk. Hawks are also raptors. They are medium-sized birds of prey that live in Europe and Asia. Most don’t get larger than two pounds and they commonly eat small rodents, such as mice and voles. They catch, kill, and eat the rodents in much the same way that hawks do.

The cover picture is of a buzzard. Like many birds of prey, buzzards are beautiful animals.

What Americans call buzzards aren’t buzzards at all. Rather, they are vultures. Specifically, they are turkey vultures, although they are also sometimes called turkey buzzards. There is a major difference between buzzards and vultures.

They don’t look anything alike, mainly because of that primary difference. That difference is that turkey vultures are almost entirely carrion-eaters. They eat dead and even rotting flesh.

Vultures are large birds, often twice the size of buzzards. They are also ugly because the head and neck are devoid of feathers. This makes it easier for the bird to stick its head into a carcass in order to feed on the dead meat, without fouling feathers that would just get in the way. 

  • Question of

    Did you know that there is a difference between a buzzard and a vulture?

    • Yes
    • No
  • Question of

    Did you know that there are no native buzzards living in North America?

    • Yes
    • No
  • Question of

    Did you previously believe that a turkey buzzard was actually a buzzard rather than a vulture?

    • Yes
    • No


What do you think?

14 Points

Written by Rex Trulove


    • True buzzards are medium-sized raptors with keen eyesight and strong talons that they use to capture live prey; normally rodents. They are swift fliers and usually hunt fairly close to the ground so they can swoop down, grab their prey, and take it up to a perch to eat it.

      If an American saw a true buzzard for the first time, they’d probably call it a hawk. We have many hawks in the US that look somewhat like buzzards. In size and coloration, buzzards rather remind me of marsh hawks. I should do a write up on marsh hawks.

    • America does, too, and I have no clue why someone decided to call a vulture a buzzard. Buzzards are beautiful, handsome birds. It would be a stretch to call a vulture beautiful or handsome unless it was another vulture who was talking. lol

  1. In other words, a vulture that ugly bird you see hopping about the desert area looking for dead things. I looked it up and as far as I could tell there are no buzzards in Florida but there are vultures and turkey vultures. I would figure when the heat goes to tropical vultures a looking for victims.

    • Yes, that is what is normally called buzzards in the US. They are often thought of as being desert creatures and there are indeed some in the desert, but they are also found throughout most of North America.

    • Yes, they are, but a lot of that is from the names. Buzzards are very much like hawks. It is just that what we call buzzards aren’t buzzards. It is sort of like the bird called a robin. What we call a robin in the states bears very little resemblance to true robins in Europe. True robins aren’t thrushes and what we call robins is a thrush.

  2. Then when they have the big celebrations when the buzzards come back to Hinckley, Ohio, on the same day each year, they are actually celebrating the return of the vulture.

  3. The answer is – I certainly do, and I saw one this morning as I was on the top deck of the bus coming back home from my trip to town! I quite often see buzzards circling over the fields near our village.

    Buzzards have become a lot more common in England in recent years, as have red kites, which are similar in terms of size and lifestyle. Red kites have forked tails, whereas buzzard tails are more rounded.