honey buzzard

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honey buzzard

honey buzzard, common name for several medium-sized, buzzardlike hawks (genus Pernis) of Eurasia and Africa. The European honey buzzard, Pernis apivorus, is predominantly reddish brown, and its tail is marked by three lateral brown bands, though its color varies. As with many birds of prey, the female tends to be larger than the male, with a wingspan of up to 60 in. (152 cm). Honey buzzards have a pointed, decurved bill, and a unique (among birds of prey) patch between eyes and bill, which is covered with scalelike, rather than large, bristly feathers. They have powerful toes and strong claws.

Honey buzzards are found throughout the Old World, where they feed on a diet of bees, wasps, other insects, and honey and honeycomb, which the birds steal from hives. The entire breeding season, from nest building to independence of the young, takes as long as five months. For this reason, many breed only every second year. The female lays two white, brown-spotted eggs per clutch, which are incubated for a period of 30 days.

In winter, the European honey buzzard migrates to breeding grounds in Africa. The larger crested honey buzzard, P. ptilorhyncus, of Asia also migrates to southern regions in the winter; the barred honey buzzard, P. celebensis, is found in the tropical and subtropical forests of the Malay Archipelago. The honey buzzards, which are not closely related to the true buzzards of the genus Buteo (see hawk), are classified in the phylum Chordata, subphylum Vertebrata, class Aves, order Accipitriformes, family Accipitridae.

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The following article is from The Great Soviet Encyclopedia (1979). It might be outdated or ideologically biased.

Honey Buzzard


(Pernis apivorus), a predatory bird of the family Falconidae. The body length is about 60 cm, and the wingspread about 140 cm. The color of the plumage is variable, especially in young birds. In adults the back is gray-brown, and the underparts are dark with light markings. The legs are strong, with blunt talons adapted for digging out underground nests of wasps and bees, whose larvae the honey buzzard feeds on (hence the name). Rigid, scalelike plumelets protect the facial parts of the head from stinging insects. The honey buzzard also eats other insects, as well as frogs, rodents, and, occasionally, birds. It nests in Europe and western Asia and winters in Africa. In the USSR it nests as far east as the Altai. The honey buzzard inhabits hardwood forests and builds its nests in trees. One to three eggs are laid per clutch, and they are incubated, primarily by the female, for 30 to 35 days. A closely related species, the Siberian honey buzzard (Pernis ptilorhynchus), lives in the USSR east of Central Siberia.

The Great Soviet Encyclopedia, 3rd Edition (1970-1979). © 2010 The Gale Group, Inc. All rights reserved.