Crested Honey Buzzard (Pernis ptilorhynchus)

Crested Honey Buzzard

[order] ACCIPITRIFORMES | [family] Accipitridae | [latin] Pernis ptilorhynchus | [authority] Temminck, 1821 | [UK] Crested Honey Buzzard | [FR] Bondree orientale | [DE] Schopf-Wespenbussard | [ES] Abejero Oriental | [NL] Maleise Wespendief


Monotypic species


Members of the genus Pernis are rather large kites – normally called Honey-Buzzards. They have long, broad buteonine wings and tails. The legs are short, but stout; with stout toes and talons. The lores are densely feathered with short imbricated feathers an adaptation to ward off wasps and bees whose larvae form an important part of their diet. The feathers of entire head are somewhat stiffened; with or without a projecting crest on nape. The tail is boldly barred. Their general colour is highly variable with dark phases in some forms. The young are usually more heavily streaked than are the adults. This distinct genus is associated with Henicopernis (Long-tailed and Black Honey-Buzzards), Aviceda (Cuckoo Falcons and Bazas) and Leptodon (Grey-headed Kite). It is found in Europe, through to Asia and the Pacific Rim; the more northerly forms being highly migratory. There are two major species – Pernis apivorus which, with its subspecies, covers most of the genus’ range, and Pernis celebensis which is specific to part of the Pacific rim.

Physical charateristics

appears long-necked with a small head (resembling that of a pigeon), and soars on flat wings. The head lacks a strong supraciliary ridge giving it a very un-raptor-like facial appearance. It has a long tail and a short head crest. It is brown above, but not as dark as Honey Buzzard, and paler below. There is a dark throat stripe. Unusually for a large bird of prey, the sexes can be distinguished. The male has a blue-grey head, while the female’s head is brown. She is slightly larger and darker than the male. The male has a black tail with a white band, whilst the female resembles female Honey Buzzard. It is larger and longer winged than its western counterpart, Honey Buzzard, Pernis apivorus.

Listen to the sound of Crested Honey Buzzard

[audio: Honey Buzzard.mp3]

Copyright remark: Most sounds derived from xeno-canto

wingspan min.: 135 cm wingspan max.: 150 cm
size min.: 52 cm size max.: 68 cm
incubation min.: 28 days incubation max.: 35 days
fledging min.: 34 days fledging max.: 45 days
broods: 1   eggs min.: 1  
      eggs max.: 3  


Eurasia, Oriental Region : East Eurasia, widespread OR. The distribution of the Oriental honey-buzzard is split into two distinct populations, a northern one which is migratory and comprises the subspecies Pernis ptilorhyncus orientalis, and a southern one which is mostly sedentary and comprises the other five subspecies: P. p. ruficollis, P. p. torquatus, P. p. ptilorhyncus, P. p. palawanensis and P. p. philippensis. The northern population breeds during the summer from southern Siberia down to northeast China, North Korea and Japan, but migrates down through the Indian subcontinent and Southeast Asia over winter. The sedentary southern population occurs from north Pakistan down through Southeast Asia as far south as Java in Indonesia. Within the southern population the ranges of the five subspecies vary geographically


In the northern parts of its range the Oriental honey buzzard is typically found in broadleaf and mixed forest, whilst in tropical areas further south it is found in rainforest, open woodland and even small groves near human habitation


Breeding occurs during the summer in close association with fluctuations in the abundance of food . During courtship, aerial displays are common and typically involve solitary and mutual circling, and distinctive undulating rollercoaster-like flight. The nests measure up to 80 centimetres across and are usually made from twigs and leaves, and positioned at heights of 6 to 28 metres in a tree. The female lays, on average, two eggs, which are incubated for between 28 and 35 days. After hatching both the male and female participate in feeding the young, which fledge after around five to six weeks and become independent after another five to eight weeks.

Feeding habits

In common with the European honey-buzzard, the Oriental honey-buzzard feeds predominately on the combs, larvae, pupae and adults of social bees, wasps and hornets, but will also take other insects, reptiles, frogs, small mammals, and young or injured birds

Video Crested Honey Buzzard


copyright: Ron Hoff


This species has an extremely large range, and hence does not approach the thresholds for Vulnerable under the range size criterion (Extent of Occurrence <20,000 km2 combined with a declining or fluctuating range size, habitat extent/quality, or population size and a small number of locations or severe fragmentation). The population trend appears to be stable, and hence the species does not approach the thresholds for Vulnerable under the population trend criterion (>30% decline over ten years or three generations). The population size is very large, and hence does not approach the thresholds for Vulnerable under the population size criterion (<10,000 mature individuals with a continuing decline estimated to be >10% in ten years or three generations, or with a specified population structure). For these reasons the species is evaluated as Least Concern.
Crested Honey Buzzard status Least Concern


Migratory in Northern populations, sedentary or with local movements in South. Arrives on breeding grounds in Siberia and Japan in May; leaves in Sept/Oct to winter from Southeast Asia South to Indochina, where migrants may coincide with sedentary populations. Considerable movement recorded over Bali, with 2186 birds seen in 1 month, mainly from mid-Oct to early Nov. The late spring migration is related to availability of food in N breeding zones; arrival in some areas of Punjab in Pakistan coincides with that of migratory rock bee (Apis dorsata). May travel distances in search of feeding areas, e.g. on Indian Subcontinent. Recent records from Andaman Is may refer to migrants of perhaps to local breeding population.

Distribution map

Crested Honey Buzzard distribution range map

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