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Buzzard vs. Vulture: What's the Difference?

Edited by Aimie Carlson || By Janet White || Published on November 2, 2023
A buzzard is a medium-sized bird of prey with a broad wingspan and rounded tail, often feeding on small mammals and carrion, while a vulture is a large scavenging bird, primarily feeding on carrion.

Key Differences

Buzzards and vultures, though both raptors, are distinguished by their feeding habits, appearance, and habitat. Buzzards are generally medium-sized birds of prey, with broad wings and a rounded tail. They often feed on small mammals, birds, and carrion. Vultures, on the other hand, are primarily scavengers and feed mostly on carrion, seldom hunting live prey.
Differences in their physical appearance are also notable. Buzzards tend to have a more robust build and can often be seen with a variety of plumage colors and patterns. Vultures, conversely, are known for their bald heads, which are adapted to their scavenging habits, preventing feathers from becoming soiled when feeding on carcasses.
Habitats of buzzards and vultures also vary. While buzzards are commonly found in a variety of settings including woodlands, open fields, and hills, vultures prefer open landscapes, such as savannas, grasslands, and deserts, where they can easily spot carcasses from the sky.
Geographical distribution provides another distinction. Buzzards are predominantly found in Europe and Asia, with some species in North America. Vultures, meanwhile, have a wider distribution, with species found in Africa, Asia, Europe, and the Americas.
In terms of behavior, vultures often display social feeding habits, gathering in groups around a carcass. Buzzards, while they can be seen soaring in the sky searching for food, are more solitary when it comes to feeding.

Comparison Chart

Feeding Habits

Hunts small mammals, birds, and feeds on carrion.
Primarily scavenges on carrion.

Physical Appearance

Medium-sized, broad wings, rounded tail, varied plumage.
Larger, bald heads, less varied plumage.


Woodlands, open fields, hills.
Open landscapes: savannas, grasslands, deserts.

Geographical Distribution

Predominantly Europe and Asia, some in North America.
Wider distribution across continents.


More solitary in feeding.
Often feeds in groups, social scavenging.

Buzzard and Vulture Definitions


A medium-sized bird of prey with broad wings.
The buzzard soared gracefully above the open fields.


A bird with strong acidic digestive juices to feed on rotting meat.
The vulture's stomach can handle meat that would be toxic to other animals.


A term used in North America to refer to some vultures or hawks.
The locals often called the turkey vulture a buzzard.


Any of various large diurnal birds of prey of the families Accipitridae and Cathartidae.
The Andean condor is a type of vulture found in South America.


A raptor with a rounded tail and sharp talons.
The buzzard is a formidable hunter in its habitat.


A bird often associated with death or decay due to its feeding habits.
In some cultures, the vulture is seen as a symbol of renewal.


A bird belonging to the genus Buteo.
Many species of buzzards can be found across Europe and Asia.


A large bird of prey with a bald head, primarily feeding on carrion.
The vulture circled above, waiting for the right moment to descend on the carcass.


Any of various North American vultures, such as the turkey vulture.


A scavenging raptor known for its keen eyesight.
The vulture can spot a dead animal from great heights.


Chiefly British A hawk of the genus Buteo, having broad wings and a broad tail.


Any of various large birds of prey characteristically having dark plumage and a featherless head and neck and generally feeding on carrion. Species found in the Americas are in the family Cathartidae, and those found in Eurasia and Africa are in the family Accipitridae.


An avaricious or otherwise unpleasant person.


A person of a rapacious, predatory, or profiteering nature.


Any of several Old World birds of prey of the genus Buteo with broad wings and a broad tail.


Any of several carrion-eating birds of the families Accipitridae and Cathartidae.


(North America) Any scavenging bird, such as the American black vulture (Coragyps atratus) or the turkey vulture (Cathartes aura).


A person who profits from the suffering of others.
Within ten minutes of the accident, the vultures appeared and were organizing lawsuits.


In North America, a curmudgeonly or cantankerous man; an old person; a mean, greedy person.


To circle around one's target as if one were a vulture.
Rudy vultured when asking the girl out.


(archaic) A blockhead; a dunce.


(obsolete) ravenous; rapacious


(golf) double bogey


Any one of numerous species of rapacious birds belonging to Vultur, Cathartes, Catharista, and various other genera of the family Vulturidæ.


A bird of prey of the Hawk family, belonging to the genus Buteo and related genera.


Any of various large diurnal birds of prey having naked heads and weak claws and feeding chiefly on carrion


In the United States, a term used for the turkey vulture (Cathartes aura), and sometimes indiscriminately to any vulture.


Someone who attacks in search of booty


A blockhead; a dunce.
It is common, to a proverb, to call one who can not be taught, or who continues obstinately ignorant, a buzzard.


Senseless; stupid.


Common in South America and Central America and southern United States


The common European short-winged hawk


A predatory bird that feeds on small animals and carrion.
The buzzard swooped down to snatch its prey.


What primarily differentiates a buzzard from a vulture?

Buzzards are birds of prey often feeding on small mammals, while vultures are scavengers feeding mainly on carrion.

Why do vultures have bald heads?

Vultures have bald heads to prevent soiling of feathers when feeding on carcasses.

Are vultures found worldwide?

Vultures have a broader distribution, being found in Africa, Asia, Europe, and the Americas.

Are buzzards only found in Europe and Asia?

Predominantly, but some species or related birds are also found in North America.

Do both buzzards and vultures have sharp talons?

Yes, both possess sharp talons suitable for their feeding habits.

Are all vultures large birds?

While most vultures are large, sizes can vary among species.

Are buzzards and vultures endangered?

Some species of both buzzards and vultures are threatened due to habitat loss, poisoning, and other factors.

What type of habitats do vultures prefer?

Vultures typically prefer open landscapes where they can easily spot carrion.

Is the word "buzzard" sometimes used for other birds in North America?

Yes, in North America, the term "buzzard" can sometimes refer to certain vultures or hawks.

Are there cultural beliefs associated with vultures?

Yes, in some cultures, vultures symbolize death, rebirth, or cleansing due to their scavenging habits.

Are buzzards considered pests in any regions?

In some areas, buzzards are seen as pests, especially by farmers, due to their predation on poultry or small livestock.

How do vultures locate their food?

Vultures have keen eyesight and often circle high in the sky to locate carrion.

Why are some vultures called "Old World" and others "New World"?

"Old World" vultures are found in Africa, Asia, and Europe, while "New World" vultures are found in the Americas.

Do buzzards hunt live prey?

Yes, buzzards often hunt small mammals and birds but also feed on carrion.

Do buzzards have varied plumage patterns?

Yes, buzzards can display a range of plumage colors and patterns depending on the species.

Do buzzards migrate?

Some species of buzzards migrate, while others are resident.

Can both buzzards and vultures be seen soaring in the sky?

Yes, both species are known for their soaring behavior, often riding thermals.

How do vultures handle the bacteria in rotting meat?

Vultures have a highly acidic stomach that can neutralize toxins and harmful bacteria in carrion.

Do vultures have predators?

While adult vultures have few natural predators, their eggs and chicks can be vulnerable to other birds or mammals.

Are buzzards and vultures closely related?

While both are raptors, they belong to different taxonomic families and evolved their similar habits independently.
About Author
Written by
Janet White
Janet White has been an esteemed writer and blogger for Difference Wiki. Holding a Master's degree in Science and Medical Journalism from the prestigious Boston University, she has consistently demonstrated her expertise and passion for her field. When she's not immersed in her work, Janet relishes her time exercising, delving into a good book, and cherishing moments with friends and family.
Edited by
Aimie Carlson
Aimie Carlson, holding a master's degree in English literature, is a fervent English language enthusiast. She lends her writing talents to Difference Wiki, a prominent website that specializes in comparisons, offering readers insightful analyses that both captivate and inform.

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