Living Organisms / Animalia / Craniata / Aves / Ciconiiformes / Accipitridae / Pernis / Species
Pernis apivorus - European honey buzzard (Click photographs/illustrations: full picture & further details)










Return to top of page

General and References

Alternative Names (Synonyms)

  • Honey buzzard
  • Bondrée apivore (French)
  • Wespenbussard (German)
  • Falco pecchiaiolo (Italian)
  • Halcón abejero (Spanish)
  • Bivråk (Swedish)
  • Wespendief (Dutch)

Names for newly-hatched


Names for non-breeding males or other colour-phases


Return to top of page


Species Author

Debra Bourne

Major References

B162, B163, B164, B165

Aviculture references:

(UK Contacts)

(Further Reading)
Click image for full contents list of ELECTRONIC LIBRARY

Return to top of page

TAXA Group (where information has been collated for an entire group on a modular basis)

Parent Group

  • Birds of Prey

Specific Needs Group referenced in Management Techniques

  • --

Return to top of page

Aviculture Information


Individual Techniques linked in Wildpro

Return to top of page

External Appearance (Morphology)

Measurement & Weight

  • 52-60cm (tail 21-26cm) (B162), 52-59cm (B164); 55cm (B165).
  • Wingspan: 135-150cm (B162);113-135cm (B164).
Adult weight General --
Male 440-1050g (B162).
Female 360-1050g (B162).
Newly-hatched weight --
Growth rate --

Return to top of page


Adult Bill Male Black; cere yellow (B164, B165).
Variations (If present) --
Eyes (Iris) Male Yellow (B164, B165).
Variations(If present) --
Juvenile Bill --
Eyes (Iris) --

Return to top of page


Adult Male Yellow (B164, B165).
Variations (If present) --
Juvenile Yellow (B164).

Return to top of page


Adult Male Plumage of adult variable.

Summary: Bold barring of body. 3 dark bands across flight-feathers and tail (2 close together across bases and 1 (broader) at ends of feathers): unique to this species (B162).

  • Head: blue-greyish.
  • Dorsal (upperparts): grey-brown.
  • Ventral (underparts): pale with dark cross-barring markings.
  • Wings: flight feathers grey, with tips dark: dark trailing edge and wing tip and 2-3 further dark bars across feathers; under wing coverts mottled, flight feathers broken bands (lines of spots) along wing, tips dark.
  • Tail: underside pale with two dark bands at base, also terminal dark band (dark tail tip).

(B164, B165)

Variations (If present) Female:
  • Head: reduced or absent blue-grey.
  • Upperparts browner than in male.
  • Wing: slightly more dark on tips of primaries, shorter distance to first bar on feathers, more bars on flight feathers.
  • Tail: shorter distance between tail tip and next dark bar.
  • (B164, B165)

Colour morphs: dark, medium, rufous, pale (B164).

Juvenile Juvenile plumages also variable: dark, medium, pale and rufous morphs.
  • Head: dark 'mask' over eye
  • Flight feathers: 4-5 bars
  • Underparts: Dark morph: uniform dark brown; medium/pale morphs: coarse dark streaks

(B162, B164)

Return to top of page

Newly-hatched Characteristics

Semi-altricial (B163).

Return to top of page


Reproductive Season

Time of year Eggs laid from May (B162).
No. of Clutches One (B162).

Return to top of page

Nest placement and structure

  • In a tree, 10-20m above ground.
  • Nest of twigs with ample green fresh vegetation.


Return to top of page

Egg clutches

No. of Eggs Average 2 (B162, B163).
Range 1-3 (B162, B163).
Egg Description White or pale buff, heavily speckled/smeared with deep purple-red or brown-red, 52mm long, rounded oval, not glossy. (B162, B163).

Return to top of page


30-35 days per egg; total incubation for clutch may be longer (B162, B163).

Return to top of page


Asynchronous (B162, B163).

Return to top of page


40-45 days (B163); 40-44 days (B162).

Return to top of page

Sexual Maturity

Males --
Females --

Return to top of page


Feeding Behaviour

  • Watches from perch or follows flying social insects to find nests.
  • Excavates nest and feeds on larvae and adults.
  • Also pursue ground insects on foot, and small vertebrates.


Newly-hatched --

Return to top of page

Parental Behaviour

Nest-building By both parents, but predominantly by female (B163).
Incubation By both parents, but predominantly by female (B163).
Newly-hatched Tended by both parents: initially male brings food to female, who feeds it to chicks (B163).
Juveniles Both parents feed chicks, even for several weeks after fledging (B163).

Return to top of page

Social Behaviour

  • Territorial when nesting.
  • Usually solitary or pairs, but loose flocks sometimes of hundreds on migration.

(B162, B163)

Inter-specific --

Return to top of page

Sexual Behaviour

  • Monogamous.
  • Long complex aerial displays.
  • Same individuals in pairs in successive years.

(B162, B163).

Return to top of page

Predation in Wild


Return to top of page

Activity Patterns

Circadian --

Return to top of page

Natural Diet


  • Social insects, ground insects such as beetles, and small vertebrates.
  • Also fruit.

(B162, B163)

Return to top of page



Return to top of page

Range and Habitat

Distribution and Movement (Migration etc.)


Europe from Britain eastwards to about 90°E, also northern Iran. (B162)

  • In Britain: Rare. Small numbers (about 15 pairs) breed in large forests in southern England (B164, B165). Summer only (B164, B165), late April or May to late August or September) (B164, B165)


  • Migratory; winters south, in Africa south of Sahara: west and central equatorial Africa, Guinea and Liberia eastwards to Central African Republic and Zaire. Reaches Natal and Angola.

  • Concentrated where try to avoid water crossings.

(B163) (B164)

Occasional and Accidental

Accidental: Iceland, Faeroes, Ireland, Madeira, Canary Islands (B162).



Return to top of page


Open woodland (B163); forests containing clearings - glades, small wetlands, fields (B164).

Return to top of page


Intraspecific variation


Return to top of page

Conservation Status

Wild Population -

Widespread Europe and north-central Asia. Local decreases some areas (B163).

General Legislation
  • This species is listed on Schedule 1 - Part I (Birds protected by special penalties: Notes on the revised schedules state "Birds protected by special penalties at all times") of the LUK2 - Wildlife and Countryside Act 1981 of the United Kingdom. (W5.Oct01)
CITES listing Listing not yet included.
Red-data book listing Listing not yet included.
Threats Persecution (shooting) (B163).

Return to top of page

Captive Populations


Return to top of page



Return to top of page