European Honey-buzzard/Pernis apivorus

European Honey-buzzard/Pernis apivorus - Photographer: Николай Шопов
European Honey-buzzard/Pernis apivorus - Photographer: Йордан Василев
European Honey-buzzard/Pernis apivorus - Photographer: Весела Банова
European Honey-buzzard/Pernis apivorus - Photographer: Светослав Спасов

L 52-59 cm, WS 113-135 cm. Summer visitor (late Apr/May-late Aug/Sep), wintering in tropical Africa. Breeds in forests with clearings, glades, small wetlands, fields. In Britain, rare away from few breeding sites (only c. 15 in all). Food mainly larvae and nests of wasps, which are dug out from the ground, also reptiles, amphibians, nestlings of small birds, worms, etc. Nest in tall tree, lined with fresh leaves during breeding.
IDENTIFICATION: Slightly larger and more long-winged than Common Buzzard, but at distance easily confused with it. At closer range, several finer points of distinction: neck slim and head held forward in flight in Cuckoo fashion; tail rather long, about as long as width of wing, sides slightly convex and corners rounded; head-on silhouette in glide with smoothly downcurved wings, unlike Common Buzzard in lacking obvious bend at carpal joints; soars on flattish wings; active flight with slower, more elastic wingbeats. Plumage variable, incl. dark, medium, pale and rufous morphs both as adults and as juveniles. Adults usually distinctive, but juveniles much more similar to Common Buzzard. - Adult male: Ample ‘hand’ and rather long tail. Only tips of longest primaries black, sharply set off; prominent black trailing edge to wing; long step to next dark bar across pale grey flight-feathers; tail similar, prominent dark end-band and long step to inner one or two narrower dark bars at base; head largely blue-grey; upperparts brown-grey, with black bars of underside visible above as well; cere grey, eye yellow. - Adult female: Differs from adult male in having slightly more extensive dark on ‘fingers’, diffusely set off; shorter step between dark bars at end and base of tail- and flight-feathers, showing more bars; secondaries often dusky; no or rather little blue-grey on head; upperparts dark brown, hardly showing any bars. - Juvenile: Slightly shorter inner primaries and sometimes shorter tail, giving more Common Buzzard-like silhouette; wing-tips more extensively dark, as on Common Buzzard; flightfeathers more densely barred than on adult (4-5 bars instead of 2-3), recalling juvenile Common Buzzard (but latter has c. 6); secondaries and tail often darkish, with 4 or 5 evenly spaced bars; cere yellow, eye dark. Dark morph (fairly common) uniformly dark brown on underbody, lacking pale breastband of most Common Buzzards (ssp. buteo); lightest part on inner underwing is greater coverts (bases of secondaries on Common Buzzard). Pale and medium morphs often coarsely streaked on breast/ belly, not crossbarred as most adults.
VOICE: Silent except in breeding season. Main call a plaintive whistling ‘peee-lu’ or ‘glü-i-yü’, at times recalling Grey Plover in general structure. Near nest an odd, mechanical, rapidly ticking call as from a distant mowingmachine.

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