Oriental Honey-buzzard attacking a bee hive

posted in: Feeding-invertebrates, Raptors | 0

Jonathan Kuah’s dramatic image of an Oriental Honey-buzzard (Pernis ptilorhyncus) attacking a huge bee hive was photographed in Taiwan. He was in a hide and about 20 metres away. Bees were flying everywhere. He escaped being stung but not his guide who received a single sting.

The honey-buzzard attacks bee nests to get at the honeycombs where the bee larvae and honey are. If the bee nest is inside a tree cavity, it will dig out the combs and pick out the larvae, pupae as well as the adults. If the nest is hanging from a branch, it will try grab the honeycombs and fly off with it or feed on the ground if the honeycombs fall off the branch.

The honey-buzzard feeds mainly on the larvae of bees, wasps and hornets. While feeding from the honeycomb, it also eats bits of the comb as well as the honey. Its other food includes insects like alate termites and ants, lizards, frogs, birds and small mammals.

The honey-buzzard’s forehead, lores and legs are well protected against the stings of bees and wasps. It is also believed to have a chemical deterrent in their feathers that protects it from attacks by these hymenopterans.

Jonathan Kuah
14th March 2018

Cocker, Mark; Mabey, Richard (2005). Birds Britannica. London: Chatto & Windus. pp. 113–114.
Sievwright, H. & H. Higuchi, 2016. The Feather Structure of Oriental Honey Buzzards (Pernis ptilorhynchus) and Other Hawk Species in Relation to Their Foraging Behavior. Zoological Science, 33(3): 295-302.
2. Thiollay, J. M. 1994. Family Accipitridae (Hawks and Eagles). In: del Hoyo, J., Elliott, A. & 3. 3. Sargatal, J. eds. Handbook of the birds of the world. Vol. 2. New world vultures to guineafowl. Lynx Editions, Barcelona. Pp. 52-205.

This post is a cooperative effort between Birds, Insects N Creatures Of Asia and BESG to bring the study of birds and their behaviour through photography and videography to a wider audience.

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