The honey buzzard, or of course to you and I, Pernis apivorus. Though in fact, like many other species, we gave him a rather incorrect name. Incorrect because our sweet as honey ‘buzzard’ is actually closer to the kite family and not the buzzards. Maybe honey buzzard just sounded better?
As an amber species the honey buzzard finds himself among good company in the UK, along with the shag, gannet, red grouse, golden plover, golden eye (no not the soviet weapon from James Bond), and countless others. Though unfortunately, this gathering of species is not under the best of circumstances. Always rare in the UK, the honey buzzard is a summer visitor and the number of breeding pairs we attract lies somewhere between 33 and 69. Making our summer guests a very rare site indeed. However, this number is vague and a bit of a ‘guestimate’ due to the secretive nature of the honey buzzard, though it is thought that numbers are slowly increasing. This is perhaps due to larger areas of mature coniferous woodland, which they utilise for nesting. It is here, usually in woodland glades and forest edges, where they can be seen, never far from their nest sites.
Spending their winters in equatorial Africa (try to dispel your jealousy), they arrive back in the UK around mid-May. And why do they chose this month to arrive? Is there a reason? Well, yes. They come back in order to exploit their main food source. And what is that I hear you say? Honey surely?? Well unfortunately not. As wonderful as it would be to see these large birds of prey leaving the supermarket with their honey pots, or accompanying pooh bear on one of his many adventures, the honey buzzard, oddly, does not eat honey.
No. But his name is not entirely misplaced, because the honey buzzard prefers to eat wasps, bees and hornets. Nests of these insects are also valuable, with the buzzard feeding on their larvae and pupae. Young birds and frogs can also be taken, but this usually occurs when insects are in short supply.
But we find ourselves once again in the depths of winter. Our honey buzzards have long since departed, leaving us in September and we now face another seven months without one of our birds of prey. They may only be a fleeting visitor, but I think we can lay some claim toward them. So, when next summer comes around, keep your eyes peeled and if your in the right place at the right time, you may be lucky enough to see this spectacular bird.
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