Crested Honey Buzzard Pernis ptilorhynchus 鳳頭蜂鷹

Category I. Scarce autumn passage migrant, rare in winter and spring. Most records are over or near forested areas.


52-68 cm. In flight shows long head projection, long and broad wings, broad and rounded tail. At rest crest generally not present and wing tips usually fall at or beyond distal part of broad pale tail band; legs yellow and unfeathered.

Plumage is highly variable, but adult males have grey head with contrasting dark eyes, broad dark tips to flight feathers with narrower bands internally, broad dark tip to tail with two to three bars near base, whitish throat outlined by dark gorget and sometimes with dark gular stripe. Adult females are browner on the head with orange-yellow eyes and lack broad dark tips to secondaries.

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Oct. 2022, Martin Williams. Juvenile.

Juveniles such as this bird have white tips to secondaries and greater coverts, evenly-spaced dark tail bars and a paler head.


Mostly silent, but occasionally gives a whistling call that fades as it falls in pitch (similar to Black Kite).


Migrants are seen throughout HK over a wide variety of semi-natural and natural habitats, but usually near forest. Winter records from December to February generally occur in forested areas, in particular around the Tai Mo Shan massif but also as far north as Long Valley and the Deep Bay area.


Figure 1 illustrates the pattern of occurrence since 1998 and indicates that Crested Honey Buzzard is mainly a passage migrant in October and the first week of November, with the earliest on 29 August 2010. Generally, singles or small groups are recorded, with the highest count being seven on 24 October 2020.

From the second week of November through to spring Crested Honey Buzzard is rarely recorded, with most records being of singles. The latest spring report occurred on 24 April 2015.


Although known to feed on social bees and wasps and their honey, this does not appear to have been observed in HK.


The northern migratory race breeds from southern Siberia east to Sakhalin and south through northeast China to Korea and Japan. Resident forms occur from the Indian subcontinent, Indochina and southwest China south through southeast Asia and the Philippines to the Greater Sundas, while wintering birds occur in the same area as far east as Lesser Sundas (Oorta et al. 2020). In China a summer visitor to the northeast and migrant through lowland areas; resident taxon occurs in southeast Tibet and west Yunnan (Liu and Chen 2020).

Six subspecies are recognised, of which the most likely to occur is P. p. orientalis, whose breeding range stretches from south Siberia to northeast China and Japan. In addition, P. p. ruficollis ranges from India east through Indochina to southwest China and may occur occasionally. The remaining four subspecies occur in the Malay Peninsula, the Philippines and Java.


IUCN: Least Concern. Population trend decreasing.

Figure 1.

Liu, Y. and Y. H. Chen (eds) (2020). The CNG Field Guide to the Birds of China (in Chinese). Hunan Science and Technology Publication House, Changsha.

Orta, J., J. S. Marks, and G. M. Kirwan (2020). Oriental Honey-buzzard (Pernis ptilorhynchus), version 1.0. In Birds of the World (J. del Hoyo, A. Elliott, J. Sargatal, D. A. Christie, and E. de Juana, Editors). Cornell Lab of Ornithology, Ithaca, NY, USA.

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