Long-legged buzzard (Buteo rufinus)

GenusButeo (1)
SizeLength: 43 - 58 cm (2)
Wingspan: 105 - 155 cm (2)
Male weight: 1,100 g (3)
Female weight: 1,300 g (3)

Classified as Least Concern (LC) on the IUCN Red List (1) and listed on Appendix II of CITES (4).

An attractive bird of prey, the long-legged buzzard is very variable in appearance, with individuals being one of three colour types – pale, rufous or dark. However, this elegant buzzard can typically be recognised by dark patches on the bend in each wing, the dark trailing edges of the wings (2), and a rounded, rufous tail (5). The long-legged buzzard also has a dark bill, brownish-yellow eyes, and long, dingy-yellow legs (5). Two subspecies of the long-legged buzzard are recognised, Buteo rufinusrufinus and Buteo rufinuscirtensis, which are distinguishable both by size and geographical distribution, with B. r. cirtensis being the smaller subspecies (2). Compared to the loud mewing of the closely related common buzzard (Buteo buteo), the call of the long-legged buzzard is somewhat quieter, with a mellower tone (2).

The range of subspecies B. r. rufinus stretches from south-eastern Europe (2), through Turkey and the Middle East (1), to China (6), while subspecies B. r. cirtensis is native to North Africa (2). This wide-ranging raptor is also an occasional visitor to countries as far as Norway and Sri Lanka (6).

The long-legged buzzard is found in areas of arid steppe or semi-desert, as well as in mountainous regions of North Africa (2). A preference for hunting in areas of open land allows the long-legged buzzard to best use its keen eyesight to find prey (7).

The long-legged buzzard employs a number of tactics in the search for prey, including foraging in cultivated areas, hovering over open semi-arid land, and soaring on warm rising air (2) (8), and scanning from fixed vantage points such as power lines and trees (8). Such versatility is rewarded with a wide range of prey, such as small mammals, reptiles and insects (2). In northwest China, the great gerbil (Rhombomys opimus) makes up the majority of the long-legged buzzard’s diet (6).

The long-legged buzzard usually nests on cliff-sides, rocky ledges or in trees bordering open land, and often this species will often reconstruct nests abandoned by other birds (2) (8). Female long-legged buzzards typically lay three to five eggs once a year (8), which are incubated for 33 to 35 days, and the chicks remain in the nest for 43 to 45 days after hatching (3).

Due to its extensive range and large population, this species is not considered to be threatened with extinction (1). While there have been population declines in northern Africa and Arabia (8), the species’ future is currently thought to be secure, with the population estimated to be around 100,000 in 2009 (9). Within the genus Buteo, however, it is known for some populations to favour mammalian prey, and as such these populations can be sensitive to changes in the density of the favoured mammal (6).

There are no known conservation measures currently in place for this species.

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  1. IUCN Red List (February, 2010)
  2. Svensson, L., Mullarney, K. and Zetterstrom, D. (2009) Collins Bird Guide, Second Edition. HarperCollins, London.
  3. European Raptors (March, 2010)
  4. CITES (March, 2010)
  5. Whistler, H. (1928) Popular Handbook of Indian Birds. Gurney & Jackson, London.
  6. Wu, Y., Ma, M., Xu, F., Ragyov, D., Shergalin, J., Liu, N. and Dixon, A. (2008) Breeding biology and diet of the long-legged buzzard (Buteo rufinus) in the eastern Junggar basin of northwestern China. Journal of Raptor Research, 42(4): 273-280.
  7. Hosseini-Zavarei, F., Farhadinia, M.S. and Absalan, H. (2008) Habitat use of long-legged buzzard Buteo rufinus in Miandasht wildlife refuge, north-eastern Iran. Podoces, 3: 67–72.
  8. Global Raptor Information Network (March, 2010)
  9. BirdLife International (March, 2010)