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Meet the species: Rough-Legged Buzzards.

The bane of many vole and lemming populations. The Rough-Legged Buzzard is a raptor well suited to hunting in colder climes. As their name suggests, the feathering on their belly, continues down their leg in a unique evolutionary characteristic which has set them apart from others in the buzzard family.

With most species their feathering ceases at the top of their legs, reducing weight, streamlining dives and making them slightly more aerodynamic when they plummet towards prey at blistering speeds.

However, the rough legged buzzard has forfeited these advantages in exchange for a cosy set of leg warmers. Losing the almost immeasurable impact it has on prey approaches, for better heat retention.

Something which is always beneficial to have in the northern latitudes.

Chicks are cared for in the usual raptor-family fashion, with both parents caring for the young. These, unlike most, are usually born on cliff faces, instead of tree nests.  The mother will incubate and turn her eggs, while the father will guard the surrounding area and bring food when they are ready. A job he cannot falter on, if he hopes to rear a full nest. As hungry chicks are often known to consume siblings if they fall hungry for too long.

As with many predator-prey relationships, demand can never outstrip supply. The bust boom population habits of lemmings and voles are often mimicked by these buzzards. As prey colonies are in boom, parents may lay and rear five to seven eggs. In slow, lean times, these egg numbers will plummet to one or two.

Alexander S. Howson

Alexander S. Howson is a naturalist and nature writer.

Along with a heavy interest in Aquatics, birds and ecology. Alexander now directs a large deal of energy attempting to re-educate the public about aquatics and promoting the conservation of a range of wildlife species.

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