The Honey Buzzard (Pernis apivorus), sometimes known as the "pern", is a bird of prey.
It is a specialist feeder, living mainly on the larvae and nests of wasps and hornets, although it will take small mammals, reptiles and birds. It is thought that honey buzzards have a chemical deterrent in their feathers that protects them from wasp attack. The specific name apivorus means "bee-eater", although bees are much less important than wasps in its diet.
The Honey Buzzard breeds in woodland, and is inconspicuous except in the spring, when the mating display includes wing-clapping. Breeding males are fiercely territorial.
Status in BritainEdit
Honey Buzzard is a rare breeder and scarce migrant in Britain. Its most well-known summer population is in the New Forest, Hampshire, but it is also found in Wareham Forest (Dorset), in Swanton Novers Great Wood (Norfolk), in the Neath valleys (South Wales), in the Clumber Park area (Nottinghamshire), near Wykeham Forest (North Yorkshire), around Rusland Moss in Cumbria, and at numerous other sites in Wales and Scotland.
The Honey Buzzard is seen in a wide range of habitats, but generally prefers woodland and exotic plantations.
It is sometimes seen soaring in thermals. The soaring jizz is quite diagnostic; the wings are held straight with the wing tips horizontal or sometimes slightly pointed down. The head protrudes forwards with a slight kink downwards and sometimes a very angular chest can be seen, similar to a Sparrowhawk, although this may not be diagnostic. The angular chest is most pronounced when seen in direct flight with tail narrowed. When flying in wooded vegetation, Honey Buzzards usually fly quite low and perch in mid canopy, holding the body relatively horizontal with tail drooping.
The bird often appears restless with much ruffling of the wings and shifting around on its perch. The Honey Buzzard often inspects possible locations of food from its perch, cocking its head this way and that to get a good look at possible food locations. This behaviour is reminiscent of an inquisitive parrot.
Honey Buzzards also hop from branch to branch, each time flapping their wings once, and so emitting a loud clap.
It has been suggested that the similarity in plumage between juvenile Honey Buzzards and Common Buzzard has arisen as a partial protection against predation by Northern Goshawks. Although that formidable predator is capable of killing both species, it is likely to be more cautious about attacking the better protected Buteo species, with its stronger bill and talons.