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European Honey Buzzard

From Opus

Revision as of 19:55, 6 April 2011 by Njlarsen (Talk | contribs)
Photo by Daniele OcchiatoPhoto taken: Passo della Raticosa, Tuscany, Italy
Photo by Daniele Occhiato
Photo taken: Passo della Raticosa, Tuscany, Italy
Pernis apivorus



52-60cm. Very variable species plumage-wise

  • Female larger
  • Female head - brown
  • Male head - blue grey
  • In flight, tail shows two narrow dark bars and a broad dark sub-terminal bar. Wing undersides almost always give a barred impression.
  • Juvenile bird in flight shows more tail bands and more even bands on the flight feathers in the wing, and lack the strong dark terminal band on both tail and wings
  • In a close up shot, you should notice slit-shaped nostrils and small feathers on the skin that is bare in most other raptors.

Similar Species

JuvenilePhoto by IanFPhoto taken: Cala Bona, Mallorca, Spain, September 2008
Photo by IanF
Photo taken: Cala Bona, Mallorca, Spain, September 2008

This species is almost as variable as Eurasian Buzzard (or Common Buzzard), but one almost invariable feature (at least in adult birds) is the tail pattern with one dark band at the end and two near the basis of the tail. In flight, it will often hold its head with bill pointing forwards, often compared to the head of a Common Cuckoo, while Common Buzzard tends to have its bill pointing downwards. In flight, tail is longer, neck is longer, while the head is small on a Honey Buzzard.
A more difficult question is how to distinguish from Oriental Honey Buzzard, which overlap in the Middle East[1].


A bird plundering an underground nest of bees or waspsPhoto by amikosikPhoto taken: Warsaw, Poland, September 2008
A bird plundering an underground nest of bees or wasps
Photo by amikosik
Photo taken: Warsaw, Poland, September 2008

Widespread in Eurasia and Africa. A summer visitor to most of Continental Europe, breeding north to the English Channel, Denmark, and much of Scandinavia north to the head of Gulf of Bothnia and east across northern Asia. The southern limits are central Spain, Corsica, and central Italy and the Black Sea. Range is rather patchy in France and parts of central Europe, Greece, and Turkey. Also breeds in the Caucasus and a rare breeder in Britain with a scattered population of under 30 pairs in southern and eastern England and in north-central Scotland.

A passage migrant through most of the southern Europe and the Middle East, peak periods May and late August-September. Seen at the major raptor migration points in good numbers but not confined to them. Regular at Falsterbo, Gibraltar, the Bosphorus, the Caucasus and Eilat, but also seen at Sicily, Cap Bon, Malta, Crete, and Cyprus. Apart from the small breeding population the Honey Buzzard is a scarce passage migrant to Britain with about 100 recorded per year mainly at migration watchpoints on the east and south coasts but autumn 2000 saw an exceptional influx, particularly in September, with perhaps as many as 2000 birds recorded.

Widespread in African wintering range from Senegal to Ethiopia and south to the Cape.

Vagrant north to Ireland, Iceland and Faroes, also the Canary Islands.


This monotypic species used to include Oriental Honey Buzzard, but that species was recently split off.


Mature deciduous woodland, usually open, with grassy glades, and meadows, sometimes forest edge or parkland. In the north often in open pine and spruce forest.



Feeds on larvae of wasps and bees which it digs out of mainly underground nests.


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  1. Birdforum thread discussing separating this species from Oriental Honey Buzzard


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