RSPB
Skip navigation
Join the RSPB

Help us give nature a home from £3 a month.

Conservation status: Green

Now the commonest and most widespread UK bird of prey. It is quite large with broad, rounded wings, and a short neck and tail. When gliding and soaring it will often hold its wings in a shallow 'V' and the tail is fanned. Birds are variable in colour from all dark brown to much paler variations, all have dark wingtips and a finely barred tail. Their plaintive mewing call could be mistaken for a cat.

Illustrations

Overview

Latin name

Buteo buteo

Family

Hawks and eagles (Accipitridae)

Where to see them

Greatest numbers in Scotland, Wales, the Lake District and SW England, but now breeding in every county of the UK. Found in most habitats particularly woodland, moorland, scrub, pasture, arable, marsh bog and villages. May even be seen in towns and cities including Glasgow. Look for birds soaring over wooded hillsides in fine weather, or perched on fence posts and pylons. In some areas they are known as the tourists’ eagle, often being mistaken for this larger bird of prey.

When to see them

All year round. Birds soar, display and call most in spring.

What they eat

Small mammals, birds and carrion. And even earthworms and large insects when other prey is in short supply.

Population

EuropeUK breeding*UK wintering*UK passage*
-57,000-79,000 pairs--

Distribution

Key

In the UK
All UK
In Europe
All Europe
Worldwide
Europe, Asia and Africa

Audio

Sander Bot, Xeno-canto