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Tuesday, February 16, 2021

Crested Honey Buzzard (Pernis ptilorhynchus): A new record for South Africa

Originally photographed over Lourensford Estate, by Kate Morris on 30th January 2021 at 10 am and identified as a Crested Honey Buzzard.


Crested Honey Buzzard
(Crested Honey Buzzard)



Crested Honey Buzzard
(Crested Honey Buzzard)

Later in the day news filtered through that, it was a hybrid European Honey Buzzard X Crested Honey Buzzard. This find was submitted to the National  Rarities Committee for clarification as this would be the first encounter of this species in South Africa.


Crested Honey Buzzard
(Crested Honey Buzzard)





Crested Honey Buzzard
(African Harrier-Hawk: Gymnogene)


Hybrid or not most birders across the country were making their way to somerset West to see if this local celebrity could be relocated. The Spanish Farm view site just at the foot of the Helderberg Mountain was the second recording for the CHB.

Crested Honey Buzzard
(Crested Honey Buzzard twitchers)


Official Confirmation registering the CHB as the first record for South Africa, making this raptor from the orient the highest priority amongst the birding fraternity. Saturday 6th February was our first opportunity to get onto the view site and hopefully get a glimpse of this famous buzzard. Several birders were already on-site and waiting by the time we arrived. We settled down and were more than pleased with the variety of raptors on view, some had recorded twelve for the day and were searching for that elusive thirteenth, but alas the CHB didn't show.


crested honey buzzard, oriental honey buzzard, bee eating raptor, alex aitkenhead, south african raptors, first recording in South Africa,
Crested Honey Buzzard - credit Shantanu Kuveskar


Crested Honey Buzzard
(Distribution map for the Crested Honey Buzzard, the first record in South Africa 30 January 2021)


From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

Crested honey buzzard

Scientific classification

Species: P. ptilorhynchus


The crested honey buzzard (Pernis ptilorhynchus)[3] is a bird of prey in the family Accipitridae, which also includes many other diurnal raptors such as kites, eagles, and harriers. This species is also known as the Oriental honey buzzard.


Despite its name, this species is not related to Buteo buzzards and is taxonomically closer to the kites.[4] It appears long-necked with a small head (resembling that of a pigeon) and soars on flat wings. The head lacks a strong superciliary ridge, giving it a facial appearance very unlike a raptor. It has a long tail and a short head crest. It is brown above, but not as dark as the European honey buzzard, and paler below. A dark throat stripe is present. Unusually for a large bird of prey, the sexes can be distinguished. The male has a blue-grey head, while the female's head is brown. She is slightly larger and darker than the male. The male has a black tail with a white band.


It breeds in Asia from central Siberia east to Japan. It is a summer migrant to Siberia, wintering in tropical Southeast Asia. Elsewhere, it is more-or-less resident. It is a specialist feeder, living mainly on the larvae of social bees and wasps, and eating bits of comb and honey;[5] it takes other small insect prey such as cicadas.[6]


The crested honey buzzard breeds in woodland and is inconspicuous except in the spring when the mating display includes wing-clapping. The display of roller-coasting in flight and fluttering wings at the peak of the ascent are characteristic of the genus Pernis.[7][8]

It is larger and longer-winged than its western counterpart, the European honey buzzard, Pernis apivorus.






Crested Honey Buzzard
(Crested Honey Buzzard)



Crested Honey Buzzard
(Crested Honey Buzzard)


Returning on the 12th, we set up in the blazing heat of February and scanned the skies for our celebrity. Once again, we had excellent raptor sightings by still no luck with our target raptor. Friday and on-site for our third twitch, and the pressure was on to find this new record, we departed the scene feeling a little depressed about dipping on this bird.


Crested Honey Buzzard
(Crested Honey Buzzard)


Crested Honey Buzzard
(Booted Eagle)


We decided that we would commit the time to locate the bird with the weekend ahead as it had now become an obsession to get this record. Arriving early, the day's heat was oppressive, but we were resolute and on a mission to tick off this CHB. Elated when on review we could confirm that the distant showing of another raptor was indeed our bird, excited and now very content we hoped for a closer flyover to photograph this fantastic bird.


Crested Honey Buzzard
(Crested Honey Buzzard)


Trembling with excitement, Tracking the bird right above us, we could not believe how fortunate we were to have such an excellent showing of the CHB. Along with a large group of birders, the star of the show rewarded us in a very hot Somerset west.


Crested Honey Buzzard
(Crested Honey Buzzard twitchers)


Our focus turned to the images taken and hoping for that one perfect photograph. Content with the results, a reward for our patients and a commitment to getting this record. New friends were made, and we connected with old acquaintances, learning so many interesting facts about the CHB.



Crested Honey Buzzard
(Crested Honey Buzzard)


Crested Honey Buzzard, Bird, raptor, Alex Aitkenhead, South African Rare Birds, Oriental Honey Buzzard,
(Crested Honey Buzzard)


The Crested Honey Buzzard twitch must rank as one of my birding career highlights and one we will never forget.


Crested Honey Buzzard
(Cape Times Newspaper article, Wednesday, February 17 2021)



Crested Honey Buzzard



Crested Honey Buzzard, Bird, raptor, Alex Aitkenhead, South African Rare Birds, Oriental Honey Buzzard,

(Crested Honey Buzzard)


Crested Honey Buzzard
(European Honey Buzzard was seen on the same view site, image courtesy of Halima Beale Photography)


Crested Honey Buzzard
(Yellow Billed Kite: image Courtesy Stephan Wolfart)

Crested Honey Buzzard
(Black Sparrowhawk: image Courtesy Stephan Wolfart)

Crested Honey Buzzard
(Rufous Breasted Sparrowhawk: image Courtesy Stephan Wolfart)

We would appreciate any additional photographs taken of alternative raptors on the Spanish Farms Viewpoint during the Crested Honey Buzzard twitch.  We would love to add them to this article.  Please email Alex.   


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