Family Hawks, Eagles (Accipitridae)

Least Concern

Oriental Honey-buzzard (Pernis ptilorhynchus)

You are currently reading a free species account of the HBW Alive. To make the most of all of HBW's features, discover our subscriptions now!
HBW Alive Plans & Pricing  Why subscribe

Taxonomy

French: Bondrée orientale German: Schopfwespenbussard Spanish: Abejero oriental
Other common names: Crested Honey-buzzard
Taxonomy:

Falco ptilorhyncus

[sic] Temminck

, 1821,

Java

.

Closely related to P. apivorus, in which sometimes included as a race (see that species). Races rather distinctive. Migratory, generally paler form orientalis recently treated as a full species#R#R, but considerable degree of individual variation and polymorphism, as well as geographical variation within taxa (e.g. ruficollis#R), renders taxonomic evaluation difficult; further research highly desirable. Additional proposed races japonicus (from Japan), neglectus (Taiwan, migrant) and gurneyi (Myanmar) generally considered invalid. Emendation of spelling to ptilorhynchus is justified because this is the spelling on the original wrapper#R. Six subspecies normally recognized.

Subspecies and Distribution
  • P. p. orientalis Taczanowski, 1891 – Eastern Honey-buzzard – SC Siberia E to Amurland and Sakhalin, S to NE China, Japan and Korea; winters SE Asia S to Greater and Lesser Sundas, Philippines and Sangihe, also very small numbers farther W (e.g. regular on passage through S Kazakhstan), possibly wintering E Africa#R.
  • P. p. ruficollis Lesson, 1830 – Indus Valley (Pakistan)#R, India and Sri Lanka E through Myanmar to SC China (Yunnan) and most of Indochina.
  • P. p. torquatus Lesson, 1830 – extreme SW Indochina, Malay Peninsula, Sumatra and Borneo.
  • P. p. ptilorhynchus (Temminck, 1821) – Indomalayan Honey-buzzard – Java.
  • P. p. philippensis Mayr, 1939 – N & E Philippines.
  • P. p. palawanensis Stresemann, 1940 – W Philippines (Calauit and Palawan).
  • Descriptive notes

    52–68 cm; male 750–1280 g, female 950–1490 g#R; wingspan 115–155 cm#R. Similar to P. apivorus, but larger, shorter-tailed, lacks dark carpal patch on underwing and shows six (versus five) primary “fingers” in flight#R; often has well-developed nuchal crest and sometimes dark horseshoe-shaped spot on crop. Polymorphic, with extremely variable plumage colour. Races separated mainly by plumage colour, size and development of crest#R. Race orientalis large and long-winged (408–495 mm), relatively pale, with small or no crest; race ruficollis shorter-winged (388–445 mm), mostly dark above, with short crest; race philippensis also short-winged (415–436 mm), relatively long-tailed, crestless, paler with relatively little barring on breast; race palawanensis dark overall with heavily barred breast, short crest; race torquatus generally richly coloured and dark, with well-developed crest (60–70 mm); and race ptilorhyncus uniformly brownish-red, with long crest (up to 100 mm).

    ssp orientalis   Eastern Honey-buzzard

    Adult
    Drawing by Ian Lewington
    ssp orientalis   Eastern Honey-buzzard
    Adult
    Descriptive notes:

    52–68 cm; male 750–1280 g, female 950–1490 g#R; wingspan 115–155 cm#R. Similar to P. apivorus, but larger, shorter-tailed, lacks dark carpal patch on underwing and shows six (versus five) primary “fingers” in flight#R; often has well-developed nuchal crest and sometimes dark horseshoe-shaped spot on crop. Polymorphic, with extremely variable plumage colour. Races separated mainly by plumage colour, size and development of crest#R. Race orientalis large and long-winged (408–495 mm), relatively pale, with small or no crest; race ruficollis shorter-winged (388–445 mm), mostly dark above, with short crest; race philippensis also short-winged (415–436 mm), relatively long-tailed, crestless, paler with relatively little barring on breast; race palawanensis dark overall with heavily barred breast, short crest; race torquatus generally richly coloured and dark, with well-developed crest (60–70 mm); and race ptilorhyncus uniformly brownish-red, with long crest (up to 100 mm).

    Immature
    Drawing by Juan M. Varela
    ssp orientalis   Eastern Honey-buzzard
    Immature
    Descriptive notes:

    52–68 cm; male 750–1280 g, female 950–1490 g#R; wingspan 115–155 cm#R. Similar to P. apivorus, but larger, shorter-tailed, lacks dark carpal patch on underwing and shows six (versus five) primary “fingers” in flight#R; often has well-developed nuchal crest and sometimes dark horseshoe-shaped spot on crop. Polymorphic, with extremely variable plumage colour. Races separated mainly by plumage colour, size and development of crest#R. Race orientalis large and long-winged (408–495 mm), relatively pale, with small or no crest; race ruficollis shorter-winged (388–445 mm), mostly dark above, with short crest; race philippensis also short-winged (415–436 mm), relatively long-tailed, crestless, paler with relatively little barring on breast; race palawanensis dark overall with heavily barred breast, short crest; race torquatus generally richly coloured and dark, with well-developed crest (60–70 mm); and race ptilorhyncus uniformly brownish-red, with long crest (up to 100 mm).

    Adult
    Drawing by Juan M. Varela
    ssp orientalis   Eastern Honey-buzzard
    Adult
    Descriptive notes:

    52–68 cm; male 750–1280 g, female 950–1490 g#R; wingspan 115–155 cm#R. Similar to P. apivorus, but larger, shorter-tailed, lacks dark carpal patch on underwing and shows six (versus five) primary “fingers” in flight#R; often has well-developed nuchal crest and sometimes dark horseshoe-shaped spot on crop. Polymorphic, with extremely variable plumage colour. Races separated mainly by plumage colour, size and development of crest#R. Race orientalis large and long-winged (408–495 mm), relatively pale, with small or no crest; race ruficollis shorter-winged (388–445 mm), mostly dark above, with short crest; race philippensis also short-winged (415–436 mm), relatively long-tailed, crestless, paler with relatively little barring on breast; race palawanensis dark overall with heavily barred breast, short crest; race torquatus generally richly coloured and dark, with well-developed crest (60–70 mm); and race ptilorhyncus uniformly brownish-red, with long crest (up to 100 mm).

    ssp ruficollis  

    Adult
    Drawing by Ian Lewington
    ssp ruficollis  
    Adult
    Descriptive notes:

    52–68 cm; male 750–1280 g, female 950–1490 g#R; wingspan 115–155 cm#R. Similar to P. apivorus, but larger, shorter-tailed, lacks dark carpal patch on underwing and shows six (versus five) primary “fingers” in flight#R; often has well-developed nuchal crest and sometimes dark horseshoe-shaped spot on crop. Polymorphic, with extremely variable plumage colour. Races separated mainly by plumage colour, size and development of crest#R. Race orientalis large and long-winged (408–495 mm), relatively pale, with small or no crest; race ruficollis shorter-winged (388–445 mm), mostly dark above, with short crest; race philippensis also short-winged (415–436 mm), relatively long-tailed, crestless, paler with relatively little barring on breast; race palawanensis dark overall with heavily barred breast, short crest; race torquatus generally richly coloured and dark, with well-developed crest (60–70 mm); and race ptilorhyncus uniformly brownish-red, with long crest (up to 100 mm).

    ssp torquatus  

    Adult dark morph
    Drawing by Ian Lewington
    ssp torquatus  
    Adult dark morph
    Descriptive notes:

    52–68 cm; male 750–1280 g, female 950–1490 g#R; wingspan 115–155 cm#R. Similar to P. apivorus, but larger, shorter-tailed, lacks dark carpal patch on underwing and shows six (versus five) primary “fingers” in flight#R; often has well-developed nuchal crest and sometimes dark horseshoe-shaped spot on crop. Polymorphic, with extremely variable plumage colour. Races separated mainly by plumage colour, size and development of crest#R. Race orientalis large and long-winged (408–495 mm), relatively pale, with small or no crest; race ruficollis shorter-winged (388–445 mm), mostly dark above, with short crest; race philippensis also short-winged (415–436 mm), relatively long-tailed, crestless, paler with relatively little barring on breast; race palawanensis dark overall with heavily barred breast, short crest; race torquatus generally richly coloured and dark, with well-developed crest (60–70 mm); and race ptilorhyncus uniformly brownish-red, with long crest (up to 100 mm).

    Adult normal morph
    Drawing by Ian Lewington
    ssp torquatus  
    Adult normal morph
    Descriptive notes:

    52–68 cm; male 750–1280 g, female 950–1490 g#R; wingspan 115–155 cm#R. Similar to P. apivorus, but larger, shorter-tailed, lacks dark carpal patch on underwing and shows six (versus five) primary “fingers” in flight#R; often has well-developed nuchal crest and sometimes dark horseshoe-shaped spot on crop. Polymorphic, with extremely variable plumage colour. Races separated mainly by plumage colour, size and development of crest#R. Race orientalis large and long-winged (408–495 mm), relatively pale, with small or no crest; race ruficollis shorter-winged (388–445 mm), mostly dark above, with short crest; race philippensis also short-winged (415–436 mm), relatively long-tailed, crestless, paler with relatively little barring on breast; race palawanensis dark overall with heavily barred breast, short crest; race torquatus generally richly coloured and dark, with well-developed crest (60–70 mm); and race ptilorhyncus uniformly brownish-red, with long crest (up to 100 mm).

    Adult
    Drawing by Juan M. Varela
    ssp torquatus  
    Adult
    Descriptive notes:

    52–68 cm; male 750–1280 g, female 950–1490 g#R; wingspan 115–155 cm#R. Similar to P. apivorus, but larger, shorter-tailed, lacks dark carpal patch on underwing and shows six (versus five) primary “fingers” in flight#R; often has well-developed nuchal crest and sometimes dark horseshoe-shaped spot on crop. Polymorphic, with extremely variable plumage colour. Races separated mainly by plumage colour, size and development of crest#R. Race orientalis large and long-winged (408–495 mm), relatively pale, with small or no crest; race ruficollis shorter-winged (388–445 mm), mostly dark above, with short crest; race philippensis also short-winged (415–436 mm), relatively long-tailed, crestless, paler with relatively little barring on breast; race palawanensis dark overall with heavily barred breast, short crest; race torquatus generally richly coloured and dark, with well-developed crest (60–70 mm); and race ptilorhyncus uniformly brownish-red, with long crest (up to 100 mm).

    Immature
    Drawing by Juan M. Varela
    ssp torquatus  
    Immature
    Descriptive notes:

    52–68 cm; male 750–1280 g, female 950–1490 g#R; wingspan 115–155 cm#R. Similar to P. apivorus, but larger, shorter-tailed, lacks dark carpal patch on underwing and shows six (versus five) primary “fingers” in flight#R; often has well-developed nuchal crest and sometimes dark horseshoe-shaped spot on crop. Polymorphic, with extremely variable plumage colour. Races separated mainly by plumage colour, size and development of crest#R. Race orientalis large and long-winged (408–495 mm), relatively pale, with small or no crest; race ruficollis shorter-winged (388–445 mm), mostly dark above, with short crest; race philippensis also short-winged (415–436 mm), relatively long-tailed, crestless, paler with relatively little barring on breast; race palawanensis dark overall with heavily barred breast, short crest; race torquatus generally richly coloured and dark, with well-developed crest (60–70 mm); and race ptilorhyncus uniformly brownish-red, with long crest (up to 100 mm).

    ssp ptilorhynchus   Indomalayan Honey-buzzard

    Adult
    Drawing by Ian Lewington
    ssp ptilorhynchus   Indomalayan Honey-buzzard
    Adult
    Descriptive notes:

    52–68 cm; male 750–1280 g, female 950–1490 g#R; wingspan 115–155 cm#R. Similar to P. apivorus, but larger, shorter-tailed, lacks dark carpal patch on underwing and shows six (versus five) primary “fingers” in flight#R; often has well-developed nuchal crest and sometimes dark horseshoe-shaped spot on crop. Polymorphic, with extremely variable plumage colour. Races separated mainly by plumage colour, size and development of crest#R. Race orientalis large and long-winged (408–495 mm), relatively pale, with small or no crest; race ruficollis shorter-winged (388–445 mm), mostly dark above, with short crest; race philippensis also short-winged (415–436 mm), relatively long-tailed, crestless, paler with relatively little barring on breast; race palawanensis dark overall with heavily barred breast, short crest; race torquatus generally richly coloured and dark, with well-developed crest (60–70 mm); and race ptilorhyncus uniformly brownish-red, with long crest (up to 100 mm).

    ssp philippensis  

    Adult
    Drawing by Ian Lewington
    ssp philippensis  
    Adult
    Descriptive notes:

    52–68 cm; male 750–1280 g, female 950–1490 g#R; wingspan 115–155 cm#R. Similar to P. apivorus, but larger, shorter-tailed, lacks dark carpal patch on underwing and shows six (versus five) primary “fingers” in flight#R; often has well-developed nuchal crest and sometimes dark horseshoe-shaped spot on crop. Polymorphic, with extremely variable plumage colour. Races separated mainly by plumage colour, size and development of crest#R. Race orientalis large and long-winged (408–495 mm), relatively pale, with small or no crest; race ruficollis shorter-winged (388–445 mm), mostly dark above, with short crest; race philippensis also short-winged (415–436 mm), relatively long-tailed, crestless, paler with relatively little barring on breast; race palawanensis dark overall with heavily barred breast, short crest; race torquatus generally richly coloured and dark, with well-developed crest (60–70 mm); and race ptilorhyncus uniformly brownish-red, with long crest (up to 100 mm).

    ssp palawanensis  

    Adult
    Drawing by Ian Lewington
    ssp palawanensis  
    Adult
    Descriptive notes:

    52–68 cm; male 750–1280 g, female 950–1490 g#R; wingspan 115–155 cm#R. Similar to P. apivorus, but larger, shorter-tailed, lacks dark carpal patch on underwing and shows six (versus five) primary “fingers” in flight#R; often has well-developed nuchal crest and sometimes dark horseshoe-shaped spot on crop. Polymorphic, with extremely variable plumage colour. Races separated mainly by plumage colour, size and development of crest#R. Race orientalis large and long-winged (408–495 mm), relatively pale, with small or no crest; race ruficollis shorter-winged (388–445 mm), mostly dark above, with short crest; race philippensis also short-winged (415–436 mm), relatively long-tailed, crestless, paler with relatively little barring on breast; race palawanensis dark overall with heavily barred breast, short crest; race torquatus generally richly coloured and dark, with well-developed crest (60–70 mm); and race ptilorhyncus uniformly brownish-red, with long crest (up to 100 mm).

    Voice

    Mostly silent, even in nesting season. Occasionally gives single high-pitched whistle described as “wheeeeew” and multi-syllable “peeee-u” or “whi-whee-uho”#R.

    Habitat

    Wooded areas, preferring broad-leaved trees, in wide variety of bioclimates. Dense forests, open wooded areas or mixed woodland and open areas, the latter especially during migration. Tropical races frequent rainforests but also use small tracts near towns and villages and cultivated areas#R, as well as Eucalyptus plantations#R. Lowlands, hills and lower and middle slopes of mountains, up to 2000 m in N India#R and 1500 m in Japan; ranges up to 3000 m or more in migration#R.

    Food and feeding

    Mainly social bees and wasps, in particular their larvae, also eating bits of comb and honey; feeds on nests in tree-holes and similarly on those hanging from branches, and digs in ground to expose nests and larvae. Also takes other insects, e.g. crickets, flying termites and ants; occasionally vertebrates, including lizards, frogs, small mammals and birds. In Japan, young in nest were fed mainly frogs and wasps, with the adult male bringing mainly hornets (Vespa spp.) and the female mainly yellow jackets (Vespula spp.)#R. Spends long periods scanning for insects from perch and then follows them to their nest#R. Morphological adaptations for feeding on stinging insects, extracting larvae from combs and digging out nests in ground include scale-like feathers around eyes, long cere, slit-like nares, thin bill with hooked tip, and long digits on feet#R. Experiments in captivity suggest that olfaction is used in identifying food at close range#R.

    Breeding

    Laying starts Feb in S India, May and particularly Jun in N of range, everywhere related to availability of bees and wasps#R. Nests mainly in broad-leaved trees, but also in conifers and even coconut palms; sometimes at considerable height, up to 28 m above ground. Nest built in fork of tree; platform of twigs lined with green leaves and other light material; 40–45 cm wide, 20 cm deep in India, up to 80 cm wide, 25 cm deep in Siberia#R; built by both adults. Normally two eggs; incubation 28–35 days, by both adults; both also feed chicks; fledging 35–45 days; independence 5–8 weeks after fledging#R. At nest followed closely in N India, adults brought fresh green leaves to nest during brood-rearing period and fed a naked passerine, bee larvae and honeycombs to chicks; oldest chick killed youngest before fledging#R.

    Movements

    Migratory in N populations, sedentary or with local movements in S. Arrives on breeding grounds in Siberia and Japan in May; leaves in Sept/Oct to winter from SE Asia S to Indonesia, where migrants overlap with sedentary populations and there is one record (Jun 2015) of a juvenile of nominate race oversummering within range of race torquatus#R. On basis of ten birds fitted with satellite transmitters on Japanese nesting grounds, autumn migration from early to late Sept, birds taking 51–79 days to reach wintering grounds 8515–12,500 km away, crossing East China Sea and moving inland through E China and SE Asia to Malay Peninsula, then fanning out to Indonesia, Borneo and Philippines#R. Spring migration begins mid Feb to mid Mar, birds taking 66–85 days to travel 8690–12,350 km and following roughly same route in reverse except detour around N end of East China Sea to reach Japan from Korean Peninsula#R. It appears that suitable tailwinds facilitate the water-crossing behaviour in autumn, when the birds fly 680 km over the East China Sea, but not in spring, when wind support and convective conditions are best over land#R. Considerable movement recorded over W Bali in 1990, with 2186 birds tallied early Oct to early Nov, peaking at 391 birds on 27 Oct#R, and over E Bali in 2004, with 1608 birds counted late Oct to mid Nov, peaking at 300 birds on 31 Oct#R. In Wallacea, the species appears to be a regular visitor to the Lesser Sundas, but there are few records from Sulawesi and the Moluccas#R. Large autumn movements over Thailand, where 15,972 birds counted 10 Sept–9 Nov 2003, including 3021 on 1 Oct#R. Major spring migration over Tanjung Tuan, Malaysia, well documented for decades, including 8129 birds on 2–12 Mar 2001, with daily maximum of 1758 on 2 Mar and peak hourly count of 841 on 9 Mar#R. Counts there from mid Feb to early Apr, 2009–2012, were in range 31,913–63,691, with daily peak of 5329 on 11 Mar 2012#R#R. Timing of spring migration related to availability of food on breeding grounds; arrival in some areas of Punjab in Pakistan coincides with that of migratory rock bees (Apis dorsata). May travel long distances in search of feeding areas, e.g. on Indian Subcontinent. Records from Andaman Is may refer to migrants or to local breeders#R, but that on Christmas I (Dec 2001) unquestionably involved a vagrant#R. In C Asia in autumn, joins groups of migrating P. apivorus, which could lead to vagrancy#R; in this region, the species is now known to be a rare to scarce passage migrant through Kazakhstan (especially at Chokpak Pass) between late Apr and mid Jun and late Aug and mid Oct, with 13 records from Uzbekistan and three each in Tajikistan and Afghanistan, altogether involving > 65 individuals#R#R#R#R. Indeed, bird seen in Egypt in May 1996, initially believed to constitute first record for Africa, arrived in group with P. apivorus and Buteo buteo#R; followed by subsequent records in Gabon (Aug 2004)#R, Sudan (Jun 2011) and Kenya (Sept. 2014)#R, and preceded by one in Djibouti in Nov 1987#R, but no evidence to date of numbers passing through Israel and Middle East wintering on African continent. Since first record in May 1994#R, now regularly recorded in Israel, once in winter (Feb), largely in spring (mainly Apr/May) and autumn (mostly in Sept)#R#R, and Georgia (where 27 passed Batumi between 17 Aug and 20 Sept 2015)#R. Additional Middle Eastern records are available from many countries, and the species appears to be regularly wintering in small numbers (perhaps 75–100 birds)#R in Arabian Peninsula, with records available from: Iran#R#R, Jordan, Kuwait#R, Lebanon#R, Oman (by 2013, 124 records in Sept–May, with perhaps up to 30 wintering per year, since first in May 1996)#R#R, Qatar#R, Saudi Arabia (now regular in winter, with three summer records)#R#R#R, NE Turkey#R, Yemen (including Socotra)#R and United Arab Emirates (minimum of c. 20 each winter, occasional in summer)#R. There are also records of apparent hybrids with P. apivorus available from several Middle Eastern countries#R. In Europe, following several unconfirmed reports (in May, Aug and Sept), all in S Italy, one was photographed there in May 2011#R and there was a record on Cyprus in Oct 2012#R#R.

    Status and conservation

    Not globally threatened (Least Concern). CITES II. Status poorly known; retiring habits of species make its detection difficult and it is possible that its breeding range in S China is wider than currently suspected#R. Rare or uncommon in most of N breeding zones, but more common in Ussuriland; uncommon and local in Japan. Global population roughly estimated at c. 100,000–1,000,000 individuals#R. In some areas of Pakistan, species has colonized irrigated forest plantations, and recent spread to Middle East, where it is now regularly wintering in small numbers in Arabia, might also have been facilitated by increasing availability of suitable anthropogenic habitats#R. According to BirdLife, species would be highly vulnerable to effects of wind-energy development while migrating.

    Recommended citation

    Orta, J., Marks, J.S. & Kirwan, G.M. (2018). Oriental Honey-buzzard (Pernis ptilorhynchus). In: del Hoyo, J., Elliott, A., Sargatal, J., Christie, D.A. & de Juana, E. (eds.). Handbook of the Birds of the World Alive. Lynx Edicions, Barcelona. (retrieved from https://www.hbw.com/node/52959 on 22 August 2018).