Pernis apivorus (Linnaeus, 1758) HZ HONBU 2310
Family: Accipitriformes > Accipitridae

One of the UK's rarest breeding birds, Honey-buzzard is a raptor with a predilection for the grubs of wasp and bees.

While undoubtedly a rare breeding bird, the Honey-buzzard's preference for secluded mature woodland and secretive behaviour – spending relatively little time in the air – means that it is probably under-recorded.

Honey-buzzard is a summer visitor, whose wintering grounds lie to the south of the Sahara.

Select a topic for more facts and statistics about the Honey-buzzard

  • Breeding
  • Winter


Honey-buzzard identification is often difficult. The following article may help when identifying Honey-buzzard.

related video

Identifying Common Buzzard and Honey-buzzard

Buzzard is a familiar bird, but in summer and during migration time there is always the chance of finding a Honey-buzzard. Would you be confident in identifying it? Have a look at this guide to help you tell the difference.


Listen to example recordings of the main vocalisations of Honey-buzzard, provided by xeno-canto contributors.

Begging call


Develop your bird ID skills with our training courses

Our interactive online courses are a great way to develop your bird identification skills, whether you're new to the hobby or a competent birder looking to hone your abilities.

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Status and Trends

Population size and trends and patterns of distribution based on BTO surveys and atlases with data collected by BTO volunteers.


This species can be found on the following statutory and conservation listings and schedules.



The Honey-buzzard is a rare breeding species in the UK but the population and trend are unclear. Rare Breeding Birds Panel data give a mean of 38 breeding pairs for the period 2015–2019 and suggest that there has been a slight increase in the 25 years to 2019 (Eaton et al. 2021). The breeding estimate is likely to be low as it is a difficult species to monitor. A population estimate of 100–150 pairs was suggested by Roberts & Law (2014) and a national survey has recently been undertaken which may give a more accurate population estimate once the data have been analysed. The Bird Atlas data suggest the number of occupied squares may have increased since 1988–91, but this is uncertain as this may be due to improved levels of detection and reporting rather than a genuine increase (Balmer et al. 2013). 


Honey-buzzard is a rare breeding species in the UK, with most records in southern England, plus Wales, north Yorkshire and Scotland.

Honey-buzzard breeding distribution 2008-11
Britain and Ireland Breeding Distribution 2008-2011.
More from the Atlas Mapstore.

Occupied 10-km squares in UK

European Distribution Map

European Breeding Bird Atlas 2



Honey Buzzards are localised summer visitor, mostly arriving from May onwards, with a pulse of migrants in September in some years.

Weekly occurence of Honey-buzzard from BirdTrack
Weekly occurrence patterns (shaded cells) and reporting rates (vertical bars) based on BirdTrack data. Reporting rates give the likelihood of encountering the species each week.


Information about movement and migration based on online bird portals (e.g. BirdTrack), Ringing schemes and tracking studies.

An overview of year-round movements for the whole of Europe can be seen on the EuroBirdPortal viewer.


View a summary of recoveries in the Online Ringing Report.

Foreign locations of birds ringed or recovered in Britain & Ireland

Foreign locations of Honey-buzzard ringed or recovered in Britain & Ireland
Encountered in: Winter (Nov-Feb); Spring (Mar-Apr); Summer (May-Jul); Autumn (Aug-Oct)


Lifecycle and body size information about Honey-buzzard, including statistics on nesting, eggs and lifespan based on BTO ringing and nest recording data.



View number ringed each year in the Online Ringing Report


Feather measurements and photos on featherbase


For information in another language (where available) click on a linked name

Gaelic: Clamhan-riabhach
Welsh: Boda Mêl
Catalan: aligot vesper europeu
Czech: vcelojed lesní
Danish: Hvepsevåge
Dutch: Wespendief
Estonian: herilaseviu
Finnish: mehiläishaukka
French: Bondrée apivore
German: Wespenbussard
Hungarian: darázsölyv
Icelandic: Býþjór
Irish: Clamhán Riabhach
Italian: Falco pecchiaiolo
Latvian: kikis
Lithuanian: vakarinis vapsvaedis
Norwegian: Vepsevåk
Polish: trzmielojad (zwyczajny)
Portuguese: bútio-vespeiro
Slovak: vcelár lesný
Slovenian: sršenar
Spanish: Abejero europeo
Swedish: bivråk
Folkname: Bee Hawk


Interpretation and scientific publications about Honey-buzzard from BTO scientists.


Causes of change

As the trend is uncertain, it is also unclear what is driving the trend. Some studies suggest that they are highly successful breeders in the UK (Wiseman 2012) and hence productivity may be the demographic factor which is driving apparent increases.

Links to more information from ConservationEvidence.com

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