How to tell? Is it a Buzzard or a Red Kite?

We often hear people talking about seeing Red Kites or Buzzards on their commutes, or even in their back gardens. Well, here at the Centre we are passionate about native species and you may have even seen our resident Buzzard Neo in action during a flying display when he is occasionally joined by a wild Buzzard, Kite or two! So, let’s take a look at the differences between the two of them…

Both Buzzards (Buteo buteo) and Red Kites (Milvus milvus) are some of the larger soaring birds of prey you can regularly expect to spot in the sky. Both species are a similar size, although the Red Kite pips it with a wingspan of approximately 170cm compared to the 120cm average wingspan of the Buzzard. But how often do you spot a Buzzard and a Kite kindly soaring side by side next to a ruler? Not often… 

But, we can also look at colouration!

Neo – our resident Buzzard here at the centre!

Both species have a predominant colour of brown on the underside of the wing, which is where we most often end up looking at them, however Kites get their name for their stunning reddish tail and mature adults also have a silver coloured head. 

But what if your sighting is thousands of feet above and you can’t see any colours?

Well, the easiest way to identify a Kite from a Buzzard is by looking at the tail – Buzzards have a beautiful fan shaped tail, helping them to gain stability during slow flight, and saving energy whilst they scour the ground below for carrion or small mammal prey. Whereas, in the Kite family, whilst carrion and easy meals are attractive, they are also famous for their ability to eat on the wing and manoeuvre a tight space for a small meal – and their iconic forked tail gives them the additional ability to change direction fast!

In summary, the main way we’d recommend you spot the difference between these two beautiful native species is by checking out their tail shape! Forked tail for a Red Kite, Fan shaped for a Buzzard. 

Additionally, you can always come and learn more about identifying our native species, and perhaps even check out our Buzzard Neo in action, on your next visit to The Bird of Prey Project. Open every weekend (Wed to Sun), March through to October.

Can’t wait until your next visit – take a look at this video on YouTube on how to identify birds of prey in the South West of England.


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