Home | Species Database | Species Accounts | Bibliography | Researchers | Related Sites | Login

European Honey Buzzard
Pernis apivorus

Status: Lower risk

Population Trend: Stable.

Other Names: Common Honey-buzzard, Eurasian Honey Buzzard, Eurasian Honey-buzzard, European Honey-buzzard, Honey Buzzard, Western Honey Buzzard, Western Honey-buzzard.

Pernis apivorus
click to enlarge
Distribution: Afrotropical/Palearctic. Breeds in Europe and western Asia from SPAIN, FRANCE, southeastern ENGLAND and eastern Scandinavia through western RUSSIA and Caucasus to the Ob River in southwestern SIBERIA south to northern Mediterranean region, TURKEY, and IRAN; winters mostly in Africa south of the Sahara (Senegambia) to SOUTH AFRICA. more....

Subspecies: Monotypic.

Taxonomy: The genus Pernis is a primitive accipitrid with no close relations to Buteo (Seibold and Helbig 1995, Wink and Sauer-Gürth 2004). Wink (1995) found that it clusters with the Neophron/Gypaetus clade of Old World vultures at the base of the accipitrid tree, indicating that it is an old taxon. Based on molecular sequences of the cytochrome b gene, Gamauf and Haring (2004) found that the cuckoo hawks, Aviceda, form a sister group to Pernis, but their analysis indicated that Henicopernis and the Old World vultures, Gypaetus and Neophron, appear only distantly related to Pernis. The relationships of this species to Pernis ptilorhynchus have been much debated, and some authors (e.g., Brown and Amadon 1968) have lumped the two into a single species, based partly on reports (now believed to be erroneous) of individuals with intermediate characters from Siberia and Kazakhstan. Most recent authors have continued to maintain them as separate species, however, and the molecular studies of Gamauf and Preleuthner (2005) indicated that they are monophyletic and do not even form a superspecies. more....

Movements: Complete, trans-equatorial migrant (Bildstein 2006). This is one of the dominant species on the "Western European-West African Flyway," a 5,000-km overland system of corridors stretching from Scandinavia to West Africa (Bildstein and Zalles 2005). More birds cross the Mediterranean at Gibraltar and Cape Bon, Tunisia than through Algeria (Isenmann and Moali 2000). Thiollay (1977) and Thibault (1983) hypothesized an additional spring migration route via Sardinia. Zalles and Bildstein (2000) confirmed its existence, with birds flying along a south-north axis between northern Tunisia and northern Italy via Sardinia and Corsica. Further spring migration studies by Agostini et al. (2006) yielded sightings of only 103 birds in 132 hours of observation, so this is evidently not a major migratory route for honey-buzzards. This species arrives in southern Africa in August-September and returns during April-June (Kemp 1994). more....

Habitat and Habits: In the breeding range, it is found in lowland forests, wooded farmland, and forest steppe, occurring mostly in mature deciduous and mixed deciduous and coniferous forest, but also in clearings, meadows, and small wetlands. In southern Africa, where a portion of the population winters, this species occurs in moist woodlands. In West Africa, it occurs in farmbush, secondary and high forests, often in clearings at the forest edge or along trails (Gatter 1997). This species engages in a "fasting migration" during which, at both seasons, it does not stop to rest or feed during the day, but stops only to roost in certain areas; at times, large flocks descend to pools of fresh water to drink and then continue migrating (Shirihai and Christie 1992, Shirihai 1996). Wintering bifrds are generally solitary. more....

Food and Feeding Behavior: A specialized insectivore, hunting in trees and on the ground for wasp, hornet, and bumblebee nests which it breaks open to feed on larvae and pupae. It also feeds on other insects and more rarely on frogs, small reptiles, and rodents, bird eggs and nestlings. worms, spiders, and even fruit (Huntley et al. 2007). One was seen feeding on a dove-sized bird in South Africa (Irving 2007). In southern Africa, it may congregate at localities where paper wasps, Belanogaster sp., are particularly abundant. more....

Breeding: Builds a stick nest placed high in a mature tree from 10-30 m off the ground, often near a clearing (Brown and Grice 2005). Old squirrel or crow nests are often used as a foundation for the nest, which is generally lined with small green branches and leaves. Clutch size is usually 2 eggs, sometimes one, which have a white ground color, but which are usually heavily marked with reddish-brown pigment. more....

Conservation: Generally common and widely distributed, but somewhat secretive on its winter range. The European breeding population was believed to be stable betweeen 1970-1990 (BirdLife International 2004) and 1990-2000 (Kovács and Burfield 2011). Categorized as a species of "Least Concern" by BirdLife International. more....

Population Estimates: The European population was estimated at 100,000-150,000 breeding pairs by BirdLife International/European Bird Census Council (2000) and later at 110,000-160,000 breeding pairs (BirdLife International 2004). A more recent estimate placed the population between 110,000-160,000 in Europe, where 75-94% of the global population is believed to occur (Kovács and Burfield 2011).

Important References: 
BirdLife International/European Bird Census Council. 2000. European bird
  populations: estimates and trends. BirdLife Conservation Series no. 10.
  BirdLife International,Cambridge, UK.
Cramp, S., and K.E.L. Simmons. 1980. Handbook of the birds of Europe, the
  Middle East and North Africa: the birds of the western Palearctic. Vol. 2.
  Oxford University Press, Oxford, UK.
Ferguson-Lees, J., and D.A. Christie. 2001. Raptors of the world. Houghton
  Mifflin, Boston, MA.
Herremans, M.L.J., 2005. European Honey-Buzzard Pernis apivorus. Pp.
  476-477 in P.A.R. Hockey, W.R.J. Dean, and P.G. Ryan (eds.),
  Roberts Birds of Southern Africa. 7th edition. Trustees of the John Voelcker
  Bird Book Fund, Cape Town, South Africa.
Huntley, B., R.E. Green, Y.C. Collingham, and S.G. Willis. 2007. A
  climatic atlas of European breeding birds. Durham University, RSPB, and Lynx
  Edicions, Barcelona, Spain.
Jenkins, A.R. 1997. Honey Buzzard. P. 174 in J.A. Harrison et al. (eds.),
  The atlas of South African birds. Volume 1: Non-passerines. BirdLife South
  Africa and Avian Demography Unit, Johannesburg, South Africa.
Kostrzewa, A. 1998. Pernis apivorus Honey Buzzard. BWP Update
Orta, J., and B.-U. Meyburg. 1994. Western Honey-buzzard. P. 111 in del
  Hoyo, J., A. Elliott, and J. Sargatal (eds), Handbook of birds of the world.
  Vol. 2. New World vultures to guineafowl. Lynx Edicions, Barcelona, Spain.

Sites of Interest:
European Honey Buzzard photos.
Highland Foundation for Wildlife
Details on the migratory movements of a Scottish-fledged honey buzzard equipped with a satellite transmitter.
Ecology Matters
Follows the movements of two Welsh honey buzzards equipped with satellite transmitters.
Species account, with an emphasis on European populations.

Agostini, Nicolantonio
Corso, Andrea
Gamauf, Anita
Kothe, Sudhanshu
Meyburg, Bernd-U.
Panuccio, Michele
Schröpfer, Libor
Vansteelant, Wouter

Last modified: 10/21/2012

Recommended Citation: Global Raptor Information Network. 2021. Species account: European Honey Buzzard Pernis apivorus. Downloaded from http://www.globalraptors.org on 20 Oct. 2021

Home | Species Database | Species Accounts | Bibliography | Researchers | Related Sites | Login

Copyright © 1999-2012 The Peregrine Fund. All Rights Reserved.