As we have had several sightings reported to us where the Common Buzzard is often mistaken for a Red Kite, especially when seen in areas where the Red Kite is present, below are some points that should help in identifying the two birds:
As the Common Buzzard and Red Kite images show, there are distinct differences between the two birds. The most obvious being the tail.
The Common Buzzard lacks the forked tail, instead having a fanned tail.
The Common Buzzard is rather compact with broad wings and a short neck, and is slightly smaller than the Red Kite. It can appear almost wholly cream / buff but is mostly brown with an obvious wing pattern looking from beneath. However, plumage varies enormously in Common Buzzards from very pale through to very dark.
Generally, it also flaps its wings more, looking steady and purposeful in direct flight where the Red Kite glides more, with the occasional flap.
To further complicate things, both birds will soar in wide circles high in the sky, the Common Buzzard on raised wings in a shallow ‘V’.
The Red Kite is brightly patterned with long wings and makes relaxed, elegant, ‘elastic’ wing beats in direct flight with wings slightly angled / arched. It soars with wings bowed and not raised in a ‘V’. Its tail is long and deeply forked when closed and triangular with sharp outer corners, more pronounced in adults when spread. The tail appears pale looking from beneath and is constantly twisting in flight.