European Honey-Buzzard

European Honey-Buzzard, Pernis apivorus

European Honey-Buzzard

European Honey-Buzzard, Austria, August 2011, © Markus Jais


English: European Honey-Buzzard, Eurasian Honey-Buzzard, Western Honey-Buzzard
Scientific: Pernis apivorus
German: Wespenbussard
Spanish: Abejero europeo
French: Bondrée apivore

Taxonomy and Subspecies

The European Honey-Buzzard is not closely related to the Buteo Buzzards like the Common Buzzard. The reason for the English name is the similar appearance and size the Honey-Buzzard and the Buteo Buzzards.
No subspecies [GRIN 2009].


Length: 52-60 cm
Wingspan: 118-144 cm
Weight: Male 510-940 g, Female 530-1,050 g

Maximum Age

Almost 29 years in the wild. [Mebs & Schmidt 2006]


Prefers a mixture of open and woodland habitat. Breeds in forests (both deciduous and coniferous). Hunts in open areas but also in the forest. Empty landscapes with intensive agriculture is avoided (no food).
In the African wintering areas the European Honey-Buzzard prefers lowland rainforests [Bauer et al. 2005].


Breeds from south-west Europ to western Siberia. Breeds in most European countries except Island, Ireland. Does not breed in northern Scandinavia and in the south of Spain [Mebs & Schmidt 2006].


Strictly migratory. Spends the winter in Africa around the Equator. Leaves Europe in August and September and crosses the Mediterranean in large numbers at places like Gibraltar or the Bosporus because there the distance over water is smallest. Others fly over Italy, Sicily and Malta.
Arrives quite late in Europe, normally in the 2nd half of April or in May [Mebs & Schmidt 2006]. This is due to it’s main prey (larvae of Wasps) which can’t be found earlier in the year.

Breeding and Reproduction

According to [Mebs and Schmidt 2006] probably does not breed before 3 years old and younger birds stay in Africa during the summer. [Bauer et al. 2005] write that the European Honey-Buzzard can breed with 2 years but only rarely does so.
Normally 2 eggs are laid, rarely 1 or 3. Incubation time is between 30 and 37 days and the young stay in the nest between 35 and 48 days. After fledging the adults still provide prey for the young for a short time but one parent may already leave the breeding area and migrate to Africa while the young are still not fully independent [Mebs & Schmidt 2006].

Food and hunting

The most important prey are larvae of Wasps and (when no Wasps are available) bumble-bees [Mebs & Schmidt 2006]. Also feeds on other insects, young birds, bird eggs, small rodents, frogs and lizards. Event fruits are sometimes eaten [GRIN 2009, Mebs & Schmidt 2006].


According to counts in Israel and Gibraltar during migration, the European seems to be stable at the moment [Mebs & Schmidt 2006]. European population estimated 110,000-160,000 breeding pairs [BirdLife 2004]. The exact numbers are not known as it is hard to count European Honey-Buzzards due to their secret life and their similarity to Common Buzzards. By far the largest number of pairs can be found in the European part of Russia [60,000-80,000].
The real number of pairs in eastern Europe may be higher than currently estimated [Mebs & Schmidt 2006].
Other countries with large populations are Germany (4,000-4,900), France (10,600-15.000), Poland (2,000-2,500), Belarus (8,000-11,000) and Romania (2,000-2,600) [Mebs & Schmidt 2006].


Intensification of agriculture and forestry (including the use of pesticides) has reduced the availability of prey in many parts of Europe. Disturbance during the breeding time (through forest workers, joggers and other people) can also have a negative impact on the breeding success (incl. birds giving up broods entirely).
Another serious problems is the illegal hunting in some parts of southern Europe and especially during migration.
In the long term, the large scale destruction of tropical rainforests in Africa can have a serious effect on the population in Europe.


The illegal killing during migration (which also affects many other raptor species) must be stopped. Beside this, it’s important to change agricultural practices in Europe to a more environmentally friendly way with less pesticides, smaller structures and encouragement of wildlife friendly practices (incl. organic farming).
In the breeding forests, disturbance during the breeding season should be minimized (no harvesting close to nests). Use of pesticides in the forest should be minimized or avoided completely.
In Africa, the remaining rainforests must be protected.

Status IUCN/BirdLife

Least Concern (LC)

Status Global Raptor Information Network

Lower risk


[BirdLife International 2004] BirdLife International. 2004. Birds in Europe: population estimates, trends and conservation status. BirdLife Interntional. Cambridge, UK. (European Honey-Buzzard species account available at: [GRIN 2009] Global Raptor Information Network. 2009. Species account: European Honey Buzzard Pernis apivorus. Downloaded from on 29 Mar. 2009[Mebs & Schmidt 2006] Mebs, Theodor & Schmidt, Daniel (2006). Die Greifvögel Europas, Nordafrikas und Vorderasiens. Kosmos Verlag.


[Bauer et al. 2005] Bauer, H.-G., Bezzel, E. & Fiedler, W. 2005. Das Kompendium der Vögel Mitteleuropas. Aula-VerlagForsman, Dick (1999). The Raptors of Europe and the Middle East A Handbook of Field Identification. Poyser

Mebs, Theodor & Schmidt, Daniel (2006). Die Greifvögel Europas, Nordafrikas und Vorderasiens. Kosmos Verlag.


BirdLife Species Factsheet for the European Honey Buzzard

GRIN species account for the European Honey Buzzard

RSPP information for the European Honey-Buzzard