Ian’s Bird of the Week – European Honey Buzzard

Ian’s Bird of the Week – European Honey Buzzard ~ by Ian Montgomery

Newsletter – 10-14-12

I had a welcome email a couple of weeks ago pointing out an identification error on the Birdway website, thank you Tom of Luxembourg, pointing out that the photos I’d taken of a Buzzard in Alderney in the Channel Islands in 2005 was not a mere Common Buzzard but a much more interesting juvenile European Honey Buzzard. By way of excuses, they do look rather similar and at the time I had Common Buzzards on the brain as I had just been trying unsuccessfully to photograph Common Buzzards in Ireland.

Honey Buzzards are very rare nesting birds in Britain (30-50 pairs) but reasonably common in continental Europe. They are summer visitors, wintering in sub-Saharan Africa and often seen on passage and I was in Alderney in September, a good site for migrating birds including raptors. Both species have very variable plumage, but the Honey Buzzard is slightly larger, longer-necked, longer-tailed and has a slim neck and holds it head forward giving the bird a more cuckoo-like silhouette. It also supposed to hold its wings differently when gliding, second photo, but the subtlety of soaring on ‘smoothly down-curved flattish wings lacking an obvious bend at the carpal joints’ rather evades me.

They get their name from their preferred food, the larvae of bees and (mainly) wasps though they eat a more varied diet when these are not available. The specific name apivorus means ‘bee-eating’ – more accurate than ‘honey’ – and has the same Latin roots as the ‘vore’ part of carnivore and the ‘api’ part of apiarist. The generic Pernis comes from the Greek for ‘hawk’, but taxonomists are not too neurotic about combining different languages.

I saw very few raptors in Finland this year, but I did see several Honey Buzzards including this distant, slightly moth-eaten adult in the third photo. At least I identified this one correctly, though I was unjustifiably pleased in thinking I’d photographed a new species.

Back home in North Queensland, I’m working on the final revisions to the photographs for the digital version of the Pizzey and Knight Field Guide to the Birds of Australia which should be published soon – you may have seen the full page advertisement for it from Gibbon Multimedia Australia http://www.gibbonmm.com.au in the September issue of Birdlife Australia. I’ve recently received the mobile version of the equivalent South African product Roberts VII Multimedia Birds of Southern Africa http://www.sabirding.co.za. It’s a splendid product, a veritable encylopaedia, brilliantly organised and available across many platforms (iPad, iPhone, Android, Windows) so don’t go to Southern Africa without it. It augurs very well for the Australian product, but naturally I keep you posted on its progress.

Best wishes



Ian Montgomery, Birdway Pty Ltd,
454 Forestry Road, Bluewater, Qld 4818
Tel 0411 602 737 ian@birdway.com.au
Check the latest website updates:

Lee’s Addition:

After some time, when he returned to get her, he turned aside to see the carcass of the lion. And behold, a swarm of bees and honey were in the carcass of the lion. (Jdg 14:8)

Thanks, Ian, for the correction. Most of us have not seen either bird, so were upset by correction. It is also good to know that even you, whom I consider an expert, makes mistakes. Makes us feel better.

That aside, that is an neat looking bird. I like the third photo showing up under its wings. These Buzzards are part of the Accipitridae – Kites, Hawks and Eagles Family. There are six Honey Buzzards; the European, plus the Long-tailed, Black, Crested, Barred and Philippine.

See Ian’s Buzzards at his:

Accipitridae Family

European Honey Buzzard

Oriental Honey Buzzard


Accipitridae – Kites, Hawks and Eagles Family

European Honey Buzzard – Wikipedia


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