Buteo was first mentioned by Pliny the Elder in his Naturalis Historiæ, trans. H. Rackham (Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press and London: William Heinemann, 1952), bk. 10, ch. 9, referencing Greek priestess of Delphi Phemonoe, via Aristotle‘s Historia Animalium, published in The Works of Aristotle, eds. J.A. Smith and W.D. Ross, trans. D.W. Thompson (Oxford: Clarendon Press, 1910), iv, 592b, 620a. The reference is to triorchis, the bird with three testicles, the flight of which would be used to interpret omens. Pliny regards buteo as the Roman equivalent of triorchis since ‘one perched on an admiral’s ship with good omen’.
In the sixteenth century, Conrad Gessner, the so-called Swiss Pliny, wrote about buteo in his magnum opus Historiæ Animalium (2nd edn., Frankfurt am Main: Excudebat Ioannes Wechelus, 1585; repr. Frankfurt am Main: In Bibliopolio Andreæ Cambieri, 1604), iii, 45–48; as was his wont, Gessner summarizes various names for buteo used in different European regions (more about this in a future post).
As a name for the genus, Buteo was first described by French naturalist Bernard Germain de Lacépède (in full: Bernard-Germain-Étienne de La Ville-sur-Illon, comte de Lacépède), who was curator and chair of zoology at the Jardin des plantes, home of the Muséum national d’histoire naturelle, Paris. Each year he would deliver opening and closing addresses to the academy, which would be published subsequently. The 1799 publication contained a number of lists (tableaux), one of which contained Buteo, ‘Nouvelle table méthodique de la classe des oiseaux’, reprinted in M.A.G. Desmarest (ed.), Œuvres du conte de Lacépède (2nd edn., Brussels: Th. Lejeune, 1833), i, 188–194 at 189.
The boundaries of Buteo are not set in stone. For instance, the additions of Gray and Gray-lined Hawks into Buteo, formerly subspecifics of Asturina nitida, are the latest in the changing taxonomy of the genus. The specific epithets of Buteo list as follows:
- Grey Hawk – Buteo plagiatus = Striped Buzzard – from Latin plagiatus = striped – first mentioned as Buteo plagiatus by German zoologist Hinrich Lichtenstein in his index of the zoological collection of the Universität zu Berlin, Nomenclator avium Musei zoologici berolinensis (Berlin: Königlichen Akademie der Wissenschaften, 1854), 3, and described by German ornithologist Hermann Schlegel as Asturina plagiata in ‘Asturineae’, Muséum d’histoire naturelle de Pays Bas. Revue méthodique et critique des collections déposées dans cet établissement, 2/6 (1862), 5–6 – long considered subspecific to Asturina nitidus (= Beautiful Goshawk, from Modern Latin asturina = goshawk, and Latin nitidus = brilliant, shining, beautiful), split as a result of 2011 recommendations – range: south-west USA to north-west Costa Rica – Spanish: Busardo gris norteño = Northern Grey Buzzard;
- Grey-lined Hawk – Buteo nitidus = Beautiful Buzzard – from Latin nitidus = brilliant, shining, beautiful – described by English naturalist John Latham in his Index ornithologicus (London: Leigh and Sotheby, 1790), i, 41, as Falco nitidus – range: Costa Rica to north-central Argentina – Spanish: Busardo gris meridional = Southern Grey Buzzard;
- Red-shouldered Hawk – Buteo lineatus = Barred Buzzard – from Latin lineatus = marked with lines, lined – described by German naturalist Johann Friedrich Gmelin in the 1788 edition of Linnaeus’s Systema Naturae of which Gmelin was the editor: Caroli a Linné, Systema Naturae, ed. J.F. Gmelin (13th edn., Leipzig: Georg. Emanuel. Been, 1788), i, 268, as Falco lineatus – John Latham had already described the species from a collection (read: shot) as Barred-breasted Buzzard in his A General Synopsis of Birds (London: Benjamin White, 1781), i, pt. 1, 56; similarly Welsh naturalist Thomas Pennant had described the species as Red-breasted Falcon in Arctic Zoology (London: Henry Hughs, 1785), ii, 206; however, both had only described the species in English, not binomial – range: west, south-east and central North America, also north-east Mexico – Spanish: Busardo de hombro rojo = Red-shouldered Buzzard;
- Ridgway’s Hawk – Buteo ridgwayi = Ridgway’s Buzzard – for American ornithologist Robert Ridgway – described by American ornithologist Charles B. Cory in the Quarterly Journal of the Boston Zoölogical Society, 2 (1883), 46, as Rupornis ridgwayi (= Ridgway’s Dirty Bird, from Greek ῥυπος, rhupos = dirt, filth and Greek ορνις, ornis, ορνιθος, ornithos = bird), most likely placed in Rupornis due to the superficial resemblance to Rupornis magnirostris, Roadside Hawk – range: Hispaniola, now Dominican Republic, extinct in Haiti – Dominican Spanish: Guaraguaíto = Little Hawk;
- Broad-winged Hawk – Buteo platypterus = Broad-winged Buzzard – from Greek πλατυς, platus = broad, and Greek -πτερος, -pteros = -winged – the protonym described by French ornithologist Louis Pierre Vieillot in Pierre Joseph Bonnaterre‘s Tableau encyclopédique et méthodique des trois règnes de la nature. Ornithologie, ed. L.P. Vieillot (Paris: Agasse, 1823), iii, 1273–1274 as Sparvius platypterus (= Broad-winged Sparrowhawk, from Mediaeval Latin sparvius = sparrowhawk) – range: central and east North America, including Caribbean – see note;
- White-throated Hawk – Buteo albigula = White-throated Buzzard – from Latin albus = white, and Latin gula = throat – described by German zoologist Rodolfo Amando Philippi in Chile in ‘Observaciones críticas sobre algunos pájaros chilenos i descripcion de algunas especies nuevas’, Análes de la Universidad, 103 (1899), 664, and in the same year in Germany in ‘Kritische Bemerkungen über einige Vögel Chiles’, Archiv für Naturgeschichte, 65 (1899), 170 – range: west South America – Spanish: Aguilucho andino (Argentina) = Andean Hawk, Aguilucho chico (Chile) = Little Hawk;
- Short-tailed Hawk – Buteo brachyurus = Short-tailed Hawk – from Greek βραχυς, brakhus = short, and Greek -ουρος, -ouros = -tailed – described by French ornithologist Louis Pierre Vieillot in Nouveau dictionnaire d’histoire naturelle (1816) iv, 477 – range: Latin America, including Florida – Spanish (variations on): Gavilán colicorto (Middle America) = Short-tailed Hawk, Aguilucho cola corta (South America) = Short-tailed Hawk;
- Hawaiian Hawk – Buteo solitarius = Solitary Buzzard – from Latin solitarius = solitary – described by American naturalist Titian Peale in his United States Exploring Expedition: Mamalogy and Ornithology (Philadelphia, PA: C. Sherman, 1849), viii, 62 – even though Peale’s protonym stands, on a side note American explorer Charles Wilkes who claimed copyright on all the US Exploring Expedition works fell out with Peale and replaced his volume with one by American ornithologist John Cassin: United States Exploring Expedition: Mamalogy and Ornithology (Philadelphia, PA: J.B. Lippincott, 1858), viii, 97–98, in which the species has become Pandion solitarius (= Solitary Osprey, from Greek pandion = (interpreted as and attributed to) osprey) though still ascribed to Peale – range: Hawaiian Islands – Hawaiian: ‘Io = Hawk;
- Swainson’s Hawk – Buteo swainsoni = Swainson’s Buzzard – for English ornithologist Willam Swainson – listed by French ornithologist Charles Lucien Bonaparte in his A Geographical and Comparative List of the Birds of Europe and North America (London: John Van Voorst, 1838), 3, after plate 372 (Common Buzzard, 1837) by American ornithologist John James Audubon, who identified the specimen as Common Buzzard (Buteo vulgaris, now obsolete) – range: North and Middle America;
- Galapagos Hawk – Buteo galapagoensis = Galapagos Buzzard – for the Galápagos Islands – described by English ornithologist John Gould in Proceedings of the Zoological Society of London, 5 (1837), 9, as Polyborus galapagoensis (= Galapagos Greedy Bird, from Greek πολυβορος, poluboros = voracious, greedy), the type specimen collected by Charles Darwin – range: Galápagos Islands – Spanish: Gavilán de Galápagos = Galapagos Hawk;
- Zone-tailed Hawk – Buteo albonotatus = White-marked Buzzard – from Latin albus = white, and Latin notatus = marked – mentioned and described very briefly by German naturalist Johann Jakob von Kaup in ‘Monographien der Genera der Falconidea’, Isis von Oken, 1847, 329, the type specimen had been given the albonotatus label by English zoologist George Robert Gray in the British Museum – range: North America (south USA) and Latin America – Spanish (varied): Aguililla aura (Mexico) = Vulture Hawk, Aguilucho negro (Argentina) = Black Hawk, Portuguese (Brazil): Gavião preto = Black Hawk;
- Red-tailed Hawk – Buteo jamaicensis = Jamaican Buzzard – for Jamaica – described by German naturalist Johann Friedrich Gmelin in Caroli a Linné, Systema Naturae, ed. Jo. Frid. Gmelin (Leipzig: Georg. Emanuel Beer, 1788), i, 266, as Falco jamaicensis – range: North and Middle America (including Caribbean) – Spanish (Mexico): Águila colirrojo = Red-tailed Hawk;
- Rufous-tailed Hawk – Buteo ventralis = Ventral Buzzard – from Latin ventralis = of the belly, ventral – described by English ornithologist John Gould in Proceedings of the Zoological Society of London, 5 (1837), 10 – range: south Chile and south-west Argentina – Spanish: Aguilucho de cola rojiza = Rusty-tailed Hawk;
- Ferruginous Hawk – Buteo regalis = Royal Buzzard – from Latin regalis = royal – listed by English zoologist George Robert Gray in his The Genera of Birds (London: Longman, Brown, Green, and Longmans, 1844), i, 12, as Archibuteo regalis (= Royal Arch-buzzard, from Greek αρχων arkhōn = chief) – range: south-central Canada to west-central USA;
- Rough-legged Buzzard – Buteo lagopus = Hare-footed Buzzard – from Greek λαγως, lagōs = hare, and Greek πους, pous or ποδος, podos = foot – described by Danish zoologist Morten Thrane Brünnich in his Den danske atlas eller konge-riget Dannemark, med dets naturlige egenskaber, elementer, indbyggere, vaexter, dyr og andre affodninger, 616, as Falco lagopus – range: Eurasia and North America;
- Upland Buzzard – Buteo hemilasius = Semi-hairy Buzzard – from Greek ἡμι-, hēmi- = half-, and Greek λασιος, lasios = hairy, shaggy – described by Dutch zoologist Coenraad Jacob Temminck and German ornithologist Hermann Schlegel in Ph.F. de Siebold, C.J. Temminck, H. Schlegel and W. de Haan, Fauna Japonica (Lugduni Batavorum: Apud Arnz, 1845), iv, 18–20 – range: central and south-central Asia to south-east Siberia and north-east China – Russian: Мохноногий курганник = Rough-legged Buzzard, Chinese: 大鵟 = Great Buzzard;
- Eastern Buzzard – Buteo japonicus = Japanese Buzzard – for Japan – described by Dutch zoologist Coenraad Jacob Temminck and German ornithologist Hermann Schlegel in Ph.F. de Siebold, C.J. Temminck, H. Schlegel and W. de Haan, Fauna Japonica (Leiden: Apud Arnz, 1850), iv, 16–18, as Faclo buteo japonicus [sic] – split from Buteo buteo (2008 recommendations) – range: central and south Siberia, Mongolia, north-east China, Japan – Russian: Восточный канюк = Eastern Buzzard, Chinese: 普通鵟 = Common Buzzard, Japanese: ノスリ = Common Buzzard;
- Himalayan Buzzard – Buteo burmanicus = Burmese Buzzard – for Myanmar (Burma) – mentioned by English ornithologist Allan Octavian Hume in his ‘A first List of the Birds of Upper Pegu’, Stray Feathers, 3 (1875), 30 – split from Buteo buteo (2008 recommendations), after which a debate ensued regarding various type specimen and senior synonyms, whether B. burmanicus is the right name for the right specimen, or whether this should be B. refectus (= Restored Buzzard, from Latin refectus = restored) or B. plumipes (= Feather-footed Buzzard, from Latin pluma = plume, small feather and Latin pes, pedis = foot), B. burmanicus is now the agreed specific – range: Himalayas;
- Long-legged Buzzard – Buteo rufinus = Golden Buzzard – from medieval Latin rufinus = golden, golden-red – described by German physician Philipp Jakob Cretzschmar in Eduard Rüppell, Atlas zu der Reise im nördlichen Afrika: Vögel, ed. Ph.J. Cretzschmar (Frankfurt am Main: Heinr. Ludw. Brönner, 1826), 40–41, as Falco rufinus – range: Eurasia and north Africa;
- Cape Verde Buzzard – Buteo bannermani = Bannerman’s Buzzard – for Scottisch ornithologist David Armitage Bannerman – described by Harry Kirke Swann in his A Synoptical List of the Accipitres (Diurnal Birds of Prey) (London: John Wheldon, 1919), ii, 44, as Buteo buteo bannermani – split from Buteo buteo (2000 recommendations) – range: Cape Verde Islands – Portuguese (Cape Verde): Asa-curta = Short-wing.
- Socotra Buzzard – Buteo socotraensis = Socotra Buzzard – for the Socotra Archipelago – described by R.F. Porter and Guy M. Kirwan in their ‘Studies of Socotran birds VI: The taxonomic status of the Socotran Buzzard’, Bulletin of the British Ornithologists’ Club, 130 (2010), 116–131 – subsequently split from Buteo buteo (2010 recommendations) – range: Socotra Archipelago;
- Common Buzzard – Buteo buteo = Buzzard – from Latin buteo = buzzard – decribed by Carl Linneaus in his Systema naturæ (10th edn., Stockholm: Laurentii Salvii, 1758), 90, as Falco buteo – range: Eurasia;
- Forest Buzzard – Buteo trizonatus = Triple-banded Buzzard – from Latin tri- = three-, and Modern Latin zonatus = banded – described by Swedish zoologist Gustaf Rudebeck in Bertil Hanström, Per Brinck and Gustaf Rudebeck (eds) South African Animal Life: Results of the Lund University Expedition in 1950–1951 (Stockholm: Almqvist & Wiksell, 1957) iv, 416, as Buteo buteo trizonatus – split from Buteo oreophilus (2007 recommendations) – range: south and east South Africa – Afrikaans: Bosjakkalsvoël = Forest Jackal Bird;
- Mountain Buzzard – Buteo oreophilus = Mountain-loving Buzzard – from Greek ορεος, oreos = mountain, and Greek φιλος, philos = loving – described by German ornithologists Ernst Hartert and Oscar Neumann in their ‘Ein bisher verkannter Bussard Buteo oreophilus sp. nov.’, Ornithologische Monatsberichte, 22 (1914), 31–33 – range: Ethiopia to north Malawi – Kiswahili: Shakivale-mlima = Mountain Buzzard;
- Archer’s Buzzard – Buteo archeri = Archer’s Buzzard – for English ornithologist Geoffrey Archer – described by English zoologist Philip Sclater in his ‘Exhibition and descrion of a new subspecies of Buzzard, Buteo jackal archeri, from Somaliland’, Bulletin of the Bristish Ornithologists’ Club, 39 (1918), 17–18, as Buteo jakal archeri (= Archer’s Jackal Buzzard, from French chacal = jackal) – split from Buteo augur (2003 recommendation) – range: north Somalia;
- Red-necked Buzzard – Buteo auguralis = Augur-like Buzzard – from Buteo auger, and Latin -alis = pertaining to – described by Italian ornithologist Tommaso Salvadori in his ‘Descrizione di altre nuove specie di uccelli esistenti nel Museo de Torino: nota seconda’, Atti della Società italiana di scienze naturali, 8 (1865), 376–377 – range: Sierra Leone to Ethiopia, Uganda and Angola;
- Madagascan Buzzard – Buteo brachypterus = Short-winged Buzzard – from Greek βραχυς, brakhus = short, and Greek -πτερος, -pteros = -winged – described by German ornithologist Gustav Hartlaub in his ‘Systematische Uebersicht der Vögel Madagascars’, Journal für Ornithologie, 43 (1860), 11–12 – range: Madagascar – Malagasy: Bobaky = Buzzard;
- Augur Buzzard – Buteo augur = Augur Buzzard – from Latin augur = augur, soothsayer – described by German naturalist Eduard Rüppell in his Neue Wirbelthiere zu der Fauna von Abyssinien gehörig: Vögel (Frankfurt am Main: Siegmund Schmerber, 1836), 38–39, as Falco (Buteo) augur – range: Ethiopia and Somalia to Zimbabwe and central Angola to central Namibia – Kiswahili: Shakivale Mkia-mwekundu = Red-tailed Buzzard, Afrikaans: Witborsjakkalsvoël = White-breasted Jackal Bird;
- Jackal Buzzard – Buteo rufofuscus = Rufous-brown Buzzard – from Latin rufus = rufous, and Latin fuscus = brown, dusky – described by Polish naturalist Johann Reinhold Forster in his F. le Vaillant’s Naturgeschichte der afrikanischen Vögel (Halle: Fried. Christoph Dreyssig, 1798), 59–62, as Falco rufofuscus – range: Namibia and South Africa.