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A photo of a European Honey Buzzard (Pernis apivorus), male
European Honey Buzzard, Male

European Honey Buzzard

Pernis apivorus

The European honey buzzard (Pernis apivorus), also known as the pern or common pern, is a captivating bird of prey belonging to the family Accipitridae. It is distinguished by its scale-like feathers around the eyes and forehead, which serve as armor against the stings of its prey. With a length of 52–60 centimeters and a wingspan of 135–150 centimeters, it is larger and longer-winged than the common buzzard (Buteo buteo). The honey buzzard's straight claws are an adaptation that facilitates digging and walking.

Identification Tips

The honey buzzard can be identified by its long neck, small head, and flat wings during flight. The tail is longer with fewer bars than that of the Buteo buzzard, typically displaying two narrow dark bars and a broad dark subterminal bar. Males and females differ in plumage; males have a blue-grey head, while females have a brown head. The female is also slightly larger and darker. The bird's soaring jizz is quite diagnostic, with wings held straight and wingtips horizontal or slightly pointed down. The call is a clear "peee-lu."

Habitat

This species prefers woodland and exotic plantations, thriving in a variety of habitats.

Distribution

The European honey buzzard is a summer migrant to the western Palearctic, ranging from most of Europe to southwestern Siberia. It migrates to tropical Africa to escape the European winter.

Behaviour

The honey buzzard is often seen soaring in thermals and when flying in wooded areas, it flies low and perches in midcanopy. It exhibits a restless demeanor, frequently ruffling its wings and shifting on its perch. The bird inspects potential food sources from its perch with a curious, parrot-like behavior.

Song & Calls

The honey buzzard's call is a distinctive "peee-lu," which can be heard during its flight.

Breeding

Breeding takes place in woodlands, with a mating display that includes wing-clapping. The male is fiercely territorial during this time. The clutch typically consists of two eggs, which are heavily marked with brown on a white or pale buff background.

Similar Species

Juvenile European honey buzzards bear a resemblance to common buzzards, a mimicry that may offer protection from predators like the Eurasian goshawk.

Diet and Feeding

The honey buzzard specializes in feeding on the larvae and nests of wasps and hornets. It also consumes small mammals, reptiles, and birds. It is the only known predator of the Asian hornet and spends significant time on the forest floor excavating wasp nests.

Conservation status

The IUCN Red List classifies the European honey buzzard as Least Concern, indicating a stable population.

In summary, the European honey buzzard is a fascinating raptor with unique adaptations for its specialized diet. Its presence across Europe and migratory patterns to Africa make it a notable species for birdwatchers and conservationists alike.

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