© Copyright: Images: Jari Peltomäki, Jouko Lehmuskallio. Recording: Jan-Erik Bruun. All rights reserved.

Honey Buzzard

Pernis apivorus

  • Name also: European Honey-buzzard
  • Family: Hawks – Accipitridae
  • Appearance: Buzzard-like bird of prey, though tail and wings longer than Buzzard’s, and head more prominent in flight. Wings hang downwards slightly when gliding.
  • Size: Length 52–59 cm (20–23 in), wingspan 110–132 cm (43–51 in), weight 510–1,160 g (20–46 oz).
  • Nest: Made of twigs, typically about 10 m above ground. Decorated with leafy branches (usually more so than the nests of other birds of prey).
  • Breeding: 2–3 eggs laid late May, incubated by both parents for 32–36 days. Young birds able to fly within 40 days.
  • Distribution: Breeds as far north as Southern Lapland, though commoner further south. Prefers mixed forest. Finnish population estimated at 2,300 pairs.
  • Migration: Winters in tropical Africa, flying south from late July or as late as Oct. Returns May–June.
  • Diet: Mainly bumble-bees and wasps, though will also eat other birds’ eggs and young. Brings honeycombs to nest to feed young.
  • Calls: Quieter than other large birds of prey. Most common call a piercing scream.
  • Endangerment: Endangered, protected in Finland. Globally Least concern.

Honey Buzzards are as large as Buzzards, but have longer wings and tails. In flight their narrow heads stretch forward prominently, like Cuckoos’ heads, and their wings hang slightly downwards from their bodies with no visible elbow joint (compare to Buzzard). Several different colour varieties may be seen. Some birds are as dark brown as Buzzards, but others may be as pale as Ospreys. The colouring beneath their wings also varies, but the trailing edges of their wings are usually dark, and their secondaries have dark stripes made of two-three spots on each feather. Distinguishing features include overall shape and appearance, and if seen at close quarters, characteristic tail markings consisting of a wide dark band on the tail tip, and two narrower dark bands on the uppertail. Honey Buzzards have yellow legs and black beaks with ceres that are dark brown on top and yellow below. The feathers near their mouths are scaly (an adaptation to avoid stings). Irises are yellow on adult birds and greyish on juveniles.

During the nesting season Honey Buzzards are shy, and their nests are hard to find. The species’ population in Finland has been declining over a long period.

Other species from the same family

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