Oriental Honey-Buzzard in Action

on 27th May 2012

“The Oriental Honey-buzzard (Pernis ptilorhyncus) is a specialist feeder, eating mainly larvae and nests of wasps. It also take small animals including birds. One fine Saturday morning in mid February 2012, a number of park visitors were in luck. A male Oriental Honey-buzzard chose to look for breakfast in the park. Though most of the action took place against the glare of the sky, nature at work was a treat for the eyes.

“Perching on a rigid branch for vantage view of the surroundings, the buzzard would move only its head to look for quarry. Its body would remain stationary; making it hard to be spotted. Moving to the next vantage point was a breeze for the buzzard. With head stooped low, it would launch itself to glide below the canopies effortlessly. After venturing from a few vantage points, the buzzard found a target – a nest that was high in the canopy (above). It must have belonged to a pair of Black-naped Orioles (Oriolus chinensis), which were in the background making lots of alarm calls. It was surprising that the orioles did not defend their nest and the buzzard did not attack the nest. After spending close to a minute looking into the nest from about half a metre away, the buzzard lost interest and retreated without even touching the nest.

“The small crowd that had gathered to watch could only speculate that there were neither eggs nor nestlings in the nest. Some even speculated that there were, but contents may not be to the liking of the buzzard. Another possibility was the prying eyes of the crowd coupled with the alarm calls of the orioles that probably affected the buzzard and made it hesitate.

“Five minutes later, the buzzard was targeting another nest. This was a small hornet nest that was located amongst a labyrinth of bare twigs not far from the oriole nest. This time, it wasted no time to attack the outer covering of the hornet nest, exposing the white-coloured honeycombs inside (above left). The few hornets that were around posed no threat to the buzzard, which snapped at and devoured one or two adult hornets from the air when they hovered close to it. Of course, its main course was still the larvae in the nest. The nest was almost half eaten when the buzzard lifted up the remaining nest with its curved beak (above right). Five seconds later, after a mighty tug, it had to fully outstretched its wings and fanned its tail to maintain its balance. The climax of the action was reached as the buzzard succeeded in detaching the nest from its anchor in the tree.

After taking a short rest to regain its composure, it picked up the half-eaten nest and flew into another tree (above left). Patiently, it took its time to tear away at the nest, using its long sharp talons for grip and beak as tool to reach its contents.The entire nest was devoured in slightly more than ten minutes. After completing its meal, it scratched its head with eyes closed. The scratching caused the buzzard to display its short crest on its crown that was not exposed earlier (above right). It then moved to another perch where it was seen briefly fluffing out its feathers before taking off and disappearing into an inaccessible wooded area.

Kwong Wai Chong
19th May 2012

If you like this post please tap on the Like button at the left bottom of page. Any views and opinions expressed in this article are solely those of the authors/contributors, and are not endorsed by the Lee Kong Chian Natural History Museum (LKCNHM, NUS) or its affiliated institutions. Readers are encouraged to use their discretion before making any decisions or judgements based on the information presented.

YC Wee

Dr Wee played a significant role as a green advocate in Singapore through his extensive involvement in various organizations and committees: as Secretary and Chairman for the Malayan Nature Society (Singapore Branch), and with the Nature Society (Singapore) as founding President (1978-1995). He has also served in the Nature Reserve Board (1987-1989), Nature Reserves Committee (1990-1996), National Council on the Environment/Singapore Environment Council (1992-1996), Work-Group on Nature Conservation (1992) and Inter-Varsity Council on the Environment (1995-1997). He is Patron of the Singapore Gardening Society and was appointed Honorary Museum Associate of the Lee Kong Chian Natural History Museum (LKCNHM) in 2012. In 2005, Dr Wee started the Bird Ecology Study Group. With more than 6,000 entries, the website has become a valuable resource consulted by students, birdwatchers and researchers locally and internationally. The views and opinions expressed in this article are his own, and do not represent those of LKCNHM, the National University of Singapore or its affiliated institutions.

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