European honey-buzzard

European honey-buzzard
Pernis apivorus

Photo by Ulf Gotthardsson (Flickr)

Common name:
European honey-buzzard (en); bútio-vespeiro (pt); bondrée apivore (fr); abejero europeo (es); wespenbussard (de)

Order Falconiformes
Family Accipitridae

This species is found breeding in Europe and western Asia, from the Iberian Peninsula to south-eastern England and eastern Scandinavia, though western Russia and the Caucasus to south-western Siberia and south to the northern Mediterranean, Turkey and Iran. They migrate south to winter in sub-Saharan Africa down to South Africa.

These birds are 52-60 cm long and have a wingspan of 135-150 cm. They weigh 440-1.050 g.

The European honey-buzzard is mostly found breeding in mixed deciduous or coniferous forests and woodlands in the temperate and boreal zones, typically where there are open patches and clearings. They can also be found over grasslands and small wetlands. During winter they are found in dry tropical forests and savannas, especially along forest edges. They occur from sea level up to an altitude of 2.000 m.

These insectivores are specialized on wasps, bees and hornets, attacking their nest to take larvae, pupae and adults. Notably, they are the only known predator of the Asian giant hornet Vespa mandarinia, the largest hornet in the world. They also eat other insects and more rarely frogs, small reptiles, rodents, bird eggs and nestlings, worms, spiders, and even fruit.

European honey-buzzards breed in April-August, typically during the peak in abundance of bees and wasps. The nest is built by the female, with sticks, twigs and live plant materials, often using old squirl or crow nests as a foundation. The nest is lined with small green branches and leaves and is placed in a tree 7-30 m above the ground. The female lays 1-3 white eggs with heavy reddish-brown markings, which are incubated by both parents for 30-35 days. The chicks are fed by both parents, fledging 40-44 days after hatching and becoming independent at 1-2 months later.

IUCN status – LC (Least Concern)
This species has a very large breeding range and the global population is estimated at 350.000-1.000.000 individuals. The population is suspected to be stable in the absence of evidence for any declines or substantial threats.

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