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the web of life in southern Africa

Pernis apivorus (European honey-buzzard, Honey buzzard) 

Wespedief [Afrikaans]; Wespendief [Dutch]; Bondrée apivore [French]; Wespenbussard [German]; Bútio-vespeiro [Portuguese]

Life > Eukaryotes > Opisthokonta > Metazoa (animals) > Bilateria > Deuterostomia > Chordata > Craniata > Vertebrata (vertebrates)  > Gnathostomata (jawed vertebrates) > Teleostomi (teleost fish) > Osteichthyes (bony fish) > Class: Sarcopterygii (lobe-finned fish) > Stegocephalia (terrestrial vertebrates) > Tetrapoda (four-legged vertebrates) > Reptiliomorpha > Amniota > Reptilia (reptiles) > Romeriida > Diapsida > Archosauromorpha > Archosauria > Dinosauria (dinosaurs) > Saurischia > Theropoda (bipedal predatory dinosaurs) > Coelurosauria > Maniraptora > Aves (birds) > Order: Falconiformes > Family: Accipitridae

Pernis apivorus (European honey-buzzard, Honey buzzard)   

European honey-buzzard, Magoebaskloof, South Africa. [photo Trevor Hardaker ©]


Distribution and habitat

Breeds from Scandinavia and western Siberia to the Mediterranean, heading south in the non-breeding season to sub-Saharan Africa, from Guinea-Bissau to eastern Sudan and Ethiopia south to southern Africa. Here it is uncommon in patches of Zimbabwe, southern and central Mozambique, eastern Botswana, the Caprivi Strip (Namibia), north-central Namibia and north-eastern South Africa. It can occur in an well-wooded habitat, such as forest, woodland, plantations and gardens.

Distribution of European honey buzzard in southern Africa, based on statistical smoothing of the records from first SA Bird Atlas Project (© Animal Demography unit, University of Cape Town; smoothing by Birgit Erni and Francesca Little). Colours range from dark blue (most common) through to yellow (least common). See here for the latest distribution from the SABAP2.  

Movements and migrations

The adults leave the breeding grounds in August, followed by the juveniles in September, arriving in southern Africa in late November and departing from April-May.


It mainly eats insects, especially wasps and bees, doing most of its foraging aerially or on the ground. The following food items have been recorded in its diet:

  • Arthropods
    • Hymenoptera (wasps, bees and ants)
      • Belanogaster (paper wasps)
      • Vespula germanica (Yellow jacket wasp)
      • hornets taken from nests snatched off trees or huts
      • bees
    • termites
    • worms
    • spiders
  • Plants
    • berries
    • oil palm fruit


Not threatened, although it is severely persecuted when it passes over the Mediterranean in its migration.


  • Hockey PAR, Dean WRJ and Ryan PG 2005. Roberts - Birds of southern Africa, VIIth ed. The Trustees of the John Voelcker Bird Book Fund, Cape Town.