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What bird is the oriental honey buzzard?

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Photo: Teruo Nakamura

As their name indicates, oriental honey buzzards feed on larvae, pupae and adults of bees and wasps, although they belong to a species of hawks. They eat honey bees in an apiary and attack natural nests of wasp species such as black wasps. They probably look for an underground nest of wasps while observing the behavior from the sky or on a branch of a tree. They capture and eat small birds and frogs in addition to bees and wasps.
At a nest of bees or wasps, in spite of their attacks, oriental honey buzzards firmly hold the nest, extract larvae and pupae from it and eat them. It is said that something that their body secrete would protect oriental honey buzzards from bees' and wasp's clinging. In reality, many bees and wasps cling them. Despite that, oriental honey buzzards keep their composure for the most time. It is not clear yet why they can stay impervious to stings.


In contrast to other species of hawks, oriental honey buzzards, even in their breeding period, are engaged in moving a fairly long distance, but not occupying a certain limited area. Even during the incubation period, they move around beyond a distance of as many as several ten kilometers. For example, it was observed that a female oriental honey buzzard that bred in Azumino, Nagano prefecture kept flying back and forth between there and Togakushi that is located 30 kilometers to 40 kilometers far. It is speculated that it would move around to look for nests of bees and wasps. Since it does not appear that it moves blindly here and there, it may fly and search while possessing some knowledge about the location of nests of bees and wasps.
Another interesting behavior of the oriental honey buzzard that is worthy of attention is that it won`t chirp very often. Birds such as gray-faced buzzard-eagles screech vigorously sounding “piqueee”, “piqueee”, especially at the beginning of the breeding season. Such is not the case with oriental honey buzzards. It may be because there is no need to chirp since they won`t occupy any limited area.

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Photo: Teruo Nakamura


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Photo: Ken-ichi Tokita

When an attention is paid to the appearance of the oriental honey buzzard, each individual has its own color and pattern of feathers, which even makes individual recognition possible. This feature that the feather color is different among individuals may be linked to their habit to move around over a wide range of area. That can be considered to be useful for a mating counterpart or neighboring bird to easily distinguish a particular individual. The appearance clearly differs between males and females. Many of males look dark in their eyes and are featured with a wholly gentle face. Females have yellow eyes and look sharp as a whole.
Small-scale like and stiff feathers grow thick around the face of oriental honey buzzards. This feature seems to be more or less effective in lessening the danger of the reach of a bee or wasp sting to their skin. It sometimes happens that young individuals, not developed a sufficient volume of feathers yet, suffer from being fiercely stung by bees and wasps. The tip of a scale on their toes is significantly protruded. Such a shape of toes should be advantageous in digging out the nest of wasps out of the ground.

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