Rare Birds in Spain


The Long-legged Buzzard Buteo rufinus at Tarifa, Cádiz,  September 2000

by Dick Forsman

On 12. 9.2000, approaching Cazalla survey station, at 10 am,  I noticed a very rufous buzzard perched on a telegraph pole next to the road. The road was heavily trafficed, so I decided to drive up to Cazalla and watch it from there, just across the road from a distance of some 200 metres. To watch it I used a Kowa 823 with a 20-60x zoom. After having studied it for some 20 minutes, during which it did two attempts to drop onto prey from the pole (showing
upperwing and underwing patterns), I decided to approach it to take some photos. I got to  c. 30 m:s from the bird before it flew off and disappeared into the mist following the valley east.

  • Description: 
Roughly the size of a Common/Steppe Buzzard Buteo buteo, thus considerably smaller than nominate rufinus, perhaps with longer legs than in Steppe Buzzard B.b. vulpinus, but this difficult to assess with certainty. 

Tail projected ca. 5 cms beyond the folded wing-tips. Bill considerably heavy for the size of the bird, which was one character that looked very odd and did not fit the impression of vulpinus. It was pale bluish grey at the base with a darker tip. 

Long-legged Buzzard Buteo rufinus cirtensis. Juvenile  bird observed at Canteras watching point (near Tarifa) during Migres 2000.16.09. 2000. Observers: Tomasz Kulakowski, Gabriela Sawicka & Swedish birders.Probably the same bird observed also on 12th and 14th of Sep near Tarifa (Dick Forsman et al.).Photographed with Minolta 7000, 75-300 lens with 1,7x converter (Soligor) on Fuji 400. © Tomasz Kulakowski
*Submitted to Rarities Comittee of SEO and currently under study..
Ratonero moro Buteo rufinus cirtensis.Juvenil. Canteras, Tarifa, Cádiz. 16.9.2000 © Tomasz Kulakowski. Cita en estudio por el CR/SEO
Aligot Rogenc Buteo rufinus cirtensis  Juvenil. Canteras, Tarifa, Cadis. 16.9.2000 © Tomasz Kulakowski. Cita pendent d'homologació pel CR/SEO..

All upperparts feathers (incl. mantle, scapulars and wing coverts) had a broad rufous margin with a dark brown centre. The greater
coverts and tertials/inner secondaries were already rather worn and brownish (still very fresh and dark in juv. vulpinus at this time) but the tips of the greater coverts still retained their paler tips. 

Tail (seen from above when perched) rather pale greyish brown centrally but turning rufous towards tip and edges, very much like in vulpinus, and the dark tail-bars were rather fine and sparse, finer and sparser than on most vulpinus. Uppertail coverts deep rufous.

© Tomasz Kulakowski

The head was remarkably rufous, more so than on any juv vulpinus I have seen, and unlike any juv. vulpinus it was uniformly coloured with streaks only to the crown. The bird had a distinct dark malar stripe running from the gape flange to below the eye and it also had a dark down-pointing triangle on the nape. 

The underparts were more yellowish ochre with darker rufous brown flanks; the breast was distinctly streaked with a darker area on upper breast (see photos). 

Underwing coverts uniformly yellowish ochre with fine uniform streaking and the carpal patch was typically dark and round. Seen from above in flight the primaries showed a large pale area with darker bars, but it was not white and did not differ
that much from the patch of some juv. vulpinus. The iris was pale pearl-grey, which is typical of a juvenile.

© Tomasz Kulakowski

  • Discussion
In conclusion: The most important and distinctive characters of this juvenile African Long-legged Buzzard  Buteo rufinus cirtensis were the uniform, unstreaked head, the heavy bill and the typical underwing coverts with uniformly pale coloured and finely marked lesser, median and greater coverts contrasting with round and dark carpal patch. Also the wear of the plumage indicated an earlier breeding cycle than in Steppe Buzzard  Buteo buteo vulpinus.
  • N.B. Most of the single characters that we noted on the bird can also be found in juv. Steppe Buzzard (except for the few listed above). Excluding vulpinus with certainty remains (at least in theory) a real challenge when identifying stray African Long-legged Buzzards.

  • This page is possible thanks to Tomasz Kulakowski who sent us the photos and submitted the record to the CR/SEO and Dick Forsman who provided the text and also submitted the record to the CR/SEO and allowed us to put it in this web site for the benefit of birding community. Photo headings written by Ricard Gutiérrez.

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