Both Golden Eagle and Buzzard are described as common resident breeders in Arran, but the Buzzard is much more common than the Golden Eagle. The Buzzard is widespread around the whole island, where as you are more likely to see the Golden Eagle north of the String Road rather than south.
Both are exciting and impressive in flight and soaring at a distance they can be confused. One way of telling them apart is size. The Golden Eagle with its wing span of six to seven feet is a huge bird of prey. The smaller Buzzard has a wing span of around four feet. If you see a distant bird of prey being mobbed by other birds like crows, ravens, and gulls and, in size, that bird absolutely dwarfs these birds then it is likely to a Golden Eagle. In contrast the Buzzard is a more similar size to these species.
In addition, the Golden Eagle with its long broad wings and longish tail has a different outline to the smaller Buzzard with its rounded wings and a short neck and tail. (See illustrations) The Buzzard often perches on exposed telegraph poles and in trees. Its plumage can be very variable from pale to dark brown. Close up views are impressive. Coming across a Golden Eagle in the hills of Arran, with its majestic gliding, soaring flight and golden head is a memorable experience.