European honey buzzard, kite and common buzzard: Moscow’s birds of prey

June 2

Birds from the Accipitridae family have been noticed in Moscow’s nature parks. Such birds make a great contribution to the ecosystem by eating rodents and large insects, thus regulating their population. Observers note that European honey buzzards, kites and common buzzards have already arrived in the city.

Read this article to learn about the members of the Accipitridae family that can be seen in Moscow.

Northern goshawk

The northern goshawk is one of the largest raptors that inhabit Moscow. It is almost twice the size of a crow and can reach 65 centimetres in length. Female goshawks are usually larger than males. Their plumage is not bright: the bird’s upper body is dark grey, while the underside is of a light colour. They also have pronounced yellow lateral crown stripes.

Goshawks are predators. In the wild, they hunt Eurasian jays, ducks and black grouses, as well as squirrels and other rodents. In the city, they usually prey on pigeons, crows, thrushes and other birds. Goshawks use cover to ambush their victims and are capable of engaging in complex manoeuvres in their hunting flights through dense vegetation, but they are almost unable to hover.

Goshawks build nests on tall trees; couples usually use the same spot for many years and do not tend to migrate.

The Northern goshawk is listed in the Moscow Red Data Book in Category 5, which means that the number and distribution of this species in Moscow has reached a safe level.

In Moscow, Northern goshawks nest in almost all large parks: they have been spotted in more than 30 areas within the Moscow Ring Road.

Eurasian sparrowhawk

The Eurasian sparrowhawk, or Northern sparrowhawk is a small raptor, smaller than a crow. They mainly prey on tits and sparrows. Like the Northern goshawk, they hunt from an ambush, but are able to hover in the air looking for prey in open spaces. For this reason, they prefer to live in forests, near the edges of woodland and in meadows.

In Moscow, sparrowhawks do not tend to migrate. Couples breed at the same nests for several years in a row. Chicks appear later than usual, with fledglings leaving their nests in early July. Parents can behave quite aggressively and even attack people who come too close to the nest.

This species is listed as Category 3. Sparrowhawks can be seen in the Izmailovo, Bitsevsky Forest and Kuzminki-Lyublino nature and historical parks, as well as in Kuskovo woodland park, Serebryany Bor and other natural areas.

Common buzzard

The common buzzard is an average-sized bird of prey. The colour of its plumage can vary from brownish black to greyish, with a light, mottled belly. The lower sides of its wings and tail have stripes.

To differentiate the common buzzard from other species of the family, one should watch it in flight. When the bird is hovering, it can be seen that its tail is open wide, and the wings have a rather round shape.

In Russian, the name of the buzzard, kanyk, is derived from the word kanychit, to whine. When flying, the bird makes a plaintive, whining call. Common buzzards build their nests in forests, close to open spaces. They prey on small rodents and sometimes amphibians.

The common buzzard is a migrant species, therefore they almost never build nests in Moscow. The city for them is a stopover where they can rest. In the Moscow Red Data Book, they are listed as Category 1.

In recent years, these birds have been spotted in Kuzminki-Lyublino park. In Bitsevsky Forest, they can be seen twice a year, in the spring and autumn. There are more of them in the Troitsky and Novomoskovsky administrative areas, where they are listed as Category 3. In the Moscow Region, this is the most numerous raptor species.

Black kite

The black kite is a large bird with a dark grey, almost black plumage. It can be distinguished by its forked tail. It is a migrant bird. Like many other birds of prey, black kites tend to nest in one spot for several years in a row. They build nests in forests near open spaces, usually near water bodies.

Black kites hunt small mammals, amphibians, fish and invertebrates, and they also feed on carrion and forage. In Moscow, they can be seen during their periods of migration. In the Moscow Red Data Book, they are listed as Category 2.

European honey buzzard

The European honey buzzard, or pern, is the rarest bird of prey that can be seen in Moscow. In the Moscow Red Data Book it is listed as Category 0. This indicates that its nests have not been seen in Moscow for a long time. However, the bird itself has been spotted in large parks, so experts do not rule out the possibility of its nesting in the city in the near future.

The pern is an average-sized bird; its upper body has a brownish black colour, while its underside is light and speckled. The head is light grey, and the eyes are bright yellow. The greyish tail has three black stripes that are especially visible during flight.

European honey buzzards prefer thinned areas of forest not far from floodplains and large meadows. The bird builds nests between late May and early June.

During the mating display of perns, the male claps its wings while hovering in the air. The nest is built at a height of up to 12 metres, with green leafy branches woven into the structure.

Its Latin name, pernis apivorus, means bee-eating, for the bird’s diet is based on larvae and pupae of wild bees, bumblebees and wasps. When hunting, the pern watches the trajectory of the insect to find its nest. Dense feathers on the head of the birds prevent them from being bitten. Perns also eat other small invertebrates, amphibians, rodents and birds.


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