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How high can a buzzard fly?

Sent in by Steve Palmer, Somerset

Aircraft usually record the altitudes that birds can fly, often after a strike. According to an International Bird Strike Committee study, buzzards flew at an average of about 400 metres, but could be found over 1000 metres high. On warm, clear days they can probably fly higher.

Buzzards, like many other birds of prey, use thermals to soar to these heights. They have excellent eyesight so can spot prey or carrion from far away. They are usually seen soaring over open countryside where they can search for rabbits and other small mammals.

The world record for the highest recorded flight was by a Ruppell's griffon vulture. This was recorded striking an aircraft over the Ivory Coast at 11,274 metres. Bar-headed geese are also high-flyers and have been recorded flying over the Himalayas at about 9,000m. The highest-flying British bird is the whooper swan. A pilot flying over the Hebrides recorded a flock at 8,230m.

Choosing a height to fly at is important for migratory birds. They need to take advantage of wind speed and direction. If heads winds were stronger at higher altitude, they would have to fly lower and visa versa.

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