Western Honey-Buzzard

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Image:WHoneyBuzzard.jpg

Common Name: Western Honey-Buzzard
Scientific Name: Pernis apivorus

Size: 20.4-23.6 inches (52-60 cm); Wingspan: 53-59 inches (135–150 cm)

Habitat: Eurasia and Africa; a highly migratory species, breeding in countries across Europe during the summer months, before migrating south to spend the winter in Africa. During migration, the honey-buzzard makes its way primarily overland, with most migrating individuals crossing into Africa through the Straits of Gibraltar. From there, migration continues into areas throughout sub-Saharan Africa, where the honey-buzzard will overwinter.

Across its summer breeding range, the honey-buzzard prefers mixed deciduous or coniferous lowland forest and woodland, typically where there are open patches and clearings. It's wintering habitat across Africa varies depending on the region, although it most often inhabits equatorial forest edges, clearings and moist woodland. Occasionally it will reside in lowland rainforest.

Status: Least Concern. Global population: 350,000 to 1,000,000 adult individuals. The population is suspected to be stable. Many birds are shot on migration, notably in Italy, Malta and Lebanon. Population declines in northern Europe have resulted from deforestation, forest conversion and shooting. Human disturbance is also a threat. Although pesticide use has not had significant impacts in Europe (due to the species living in woodland and feeding on wasps), it may have an impact in Africa, where there are fewer restrictions on usage of pesticides and the species may be poisoned through its locust prey. It is very highly vulnerable to the effects of potential wind energy development.

Diet: They feed on the larvae, pupae and adults of social insects, such as wasps, bees and hornets. In periods when the main prey items are scarce, the honey-buzzard is capable of feeding on other insect species, as well as on amphibians, small reptiles and mammals, the nestlings and eggs of other birds, and also fruits and berries.

When hunting, the honey-buzzard will perch or fly, watching for foraging insects. Once it has located a suitable prey item, it will follow the insect back to its nest, which it will break apart with its powerful feet, feeding on the contents as it digs. The feet of the honey-buzzard are well adapted for walking and digging, with straight claws and a covering of thick scales, which also act to protect the bird against stinging insects.

Nesting: The diversity of coloration and patterning of the honey-buzzard is more extreme than any other bird of prey, with at least ten distinct color morphs in adult birds. The ‘typical’ honey-buzzard is grey-brown on the upper-parts, with a grey crown and face, and a whitish throat with dark streaks. The underbody is most often white or cream, or occasionally pale rufous (reddish) in color, and usually has defined bars in cinnamon, rufous, brown or black. Some individuals may be less heavily barred, and instead have splotches, or spots, in black, brown, or rufous. The tail of the honey-buzzard is usually greyish or pale brown, with a creamy-white tip and contrasting dark bands. The flight feathers tend to be darker above, with a pale tip and a broad black bar, whilst the undersides are most often whitish, with dark tips. The female European honey-buzzard is generally darker and browner than the male, with less defined barring and often appearing more mottled. Females are noticeably larger than males.

Breeding occurs during the summer months, from mid-June onwards, and is timed to correspond with peaks in abundance of bees and wasps. The nest is built in a tree, about 10m to 30m off the ground, and is constructed of twigs and many green, leafy branches and other live plant materials, and lined with leaves. Honey-buzzards may use the foundations of an old squirrel, crow, or buzzard nest.

Following a courtship where the male will perform an undulating flight pattern, swooping, gliding, and quivering in the air, the pair will mate.

The female will produce a clutch of between one and three eggs. Both parents take turns incubating the eggs for 30 to 35 days. After hatching, the chicks are fed by both parents and will fledge in 40 to 44 days. They become independent at 75 to 100 days.

Cool Facts: Contrary to its name, the European honey-buzzard is not related to other species of buzzard (Buteo spp.), and is instead considered to be a distinctive species of kite. It gets its name for attacking bee and wasp nests, although its goal is to eat the insects, not the honey.

It is also known as the European honey buzzard, Bondrée apivore or simply the “honey buzzard”.


This 3D Model is found in Songbird ReMix Birds of Prey Volume II: Hawks of the Old World

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