Q and A: Honey-buzzard Talk

This was another well-attended talk with lots of questions. A few questions were missed due to lack of time or answered incompletely and these are addressed below. Please see also question 14, with a corrected answer compared to what was stated in the talk.


Question Answer(s)
1 Do honey buzzards eat bees as well as wasps? Yes, they do rob bee nests, including bumblebee nests in the UK.
2 Do they have any predators? Yes, Goshawks are known to kill young and adults (as mentioned in the talk).
3 During their time in Africa, do we know what they eat? I’m originally from South Africa and I seem to recall seeing a Honey Buzzard eating flying ants … could be wrong. The diet is similar to that in the breeding grounds, e.g. wasp and bee larvae, but also some amphibians & reptiles and other small vertebrates and invertebrates. Yes, they do catch insects in flight and take termites in Africa.
4 If a nest has failed early in the season, will they attempt a second brood? This is rare, but has been recorded several times, with the pair nesting at a new site.
5 How soon after fledging do the young birds return to Africa? It varies, but they may leave the natal area soon after fledging and many UK birds arrive in Africa between mid-September and mid-October. In once instance the journey from Scotland to Ghana took four weeks.
6 The pictures are amazing. Are they taken from specific honey buzzard view points/ hot spots? Or do you find a nest and then find a vantage point? You start by finding a good vantage point over suitable habitat.
7 In terms of why their population density isn’t higher, do you think it’s related to habitat quality, and perhaps lack of wasps nests / prey? Have nest sites tended to occur in the highest quality habitats, and would they tend to avoid managed forestry sites, for example? We don’t know the answer to that. They do breed in commercial forestry planatations.
8 Do we know how they find the wasps nests? They track wasps back to nests, either from perches or whilst flying around.
9 Can you please go over again how to tell females apart from normal buzzards? I missed that bit! As for male Honey-buzzards: soaring on level wings is the best feature, but the fuller wings (especially the outer hand), smaller but protruding head and longer tail are important as is the pattern of barring on the wings and tail.
10 Do young birds fly to Africa with their parents? No, they fly separately and usually rather later.
11 Do they eat honey from a bee hive or just the larvae They take larvae and pupae, not honey.
12 Hi, I’ve seen a honey buzzard near where I live. Is it likely I would see it in the same place every year? Yes, quite likely, unless you chanced upon a migrant bird.
13 What do you think is the reason for the huge descrepancy in numbers seen on migration between Spring and Autumn? Birds may take a slightly different, or broader, migration route in spring, e.g. across the Caucasus and across Sinai.
14 What is the incubation and fledgling periods for the species? 30-35 days per egg, with up to 37 days for a clutch of two eggs (two eggs is the norm). Fledging takes about 40-44 days.
15 Do the adults do aerial prey exchange like hobbies? No, I’ve not heard of or seen that.