Wednesday, December 21

The Tanay Honey Buzzards

On the same trip to the Tanay Epic Park Rainforest Camp where we were treated to a bird buffet in the form of a fruiting Tuai tree, we also had several fantastic views of a Crested Honey Buzzard (Pernis ptilorhyncus, formerly Oriental Honey Buzzard), both perched and flying. 

A Crested Honey Buzzard flying just above the tree line at Tanay Epic Park,
December 2016

While birding around the property, we would encounter the Honey Buzzard flying over head or at eye level in front of the forested hillside.  We even had a long look at it when it perched on a palm tree quite near us. It was quite thrilling to have a large raptor perched in full view. 

Balancing on a palm tree frond swaying in the wind! December 2016

The wind was blowing the palm tree fronds back and forth but the raptor balanced with no effort, its pale yellow eye glinting under the noon sun. 

Look at that long neck and pale yellow eye, December 2016

Alex was able to take great video documentation with his phone through the scope.

In my opinion, the Tanay area, situated at the foothills of the Sierra Madre mountain range, is one of the best places to see this raptor. During our raptorwatch migration surveys, we would often see one or a couple flying around the Pag-Asa Synoptic station which is our base.

A Crested Honey Buzzard soaring at eye level at the Pag-Asa synoptic station.
 February 2013

They are much larger than the migrating  Grey-faced Buzzards or Chinese Sparrowhawks.

Soaring beside the much smaller migrant Grey-faced Buzzards, February 2013

Once, we were even treated to the sight of (not one but) a pair of Crested Honey Buzzards coming in over the ridge to land on a tree just across the field from the station!

A pair of Crested Honey Buzzards perched near the raptorwatch site, September 2014

Both EPIC park and the synoptic station are located in Barangay Sampaloc.

Often described as having a long, pigeon-like neck and long tail, the Crested Honey Buzzard looks a little awkward (at least to me).  When flying, its small head is often held down from the body making it easily identifiable from the Philippine Hawk Eagle which has very similar plumage and often occupies the same habitat. 

The characteristic small head and long neck in flight, taken in Mindanao, March 2015

This small head and long neck is advantageous in obtaining its main source of food: bee larvae and honey comb wax and honey!

Favorite food (from which they got their name)!  Giant Honey Bee (Apis dorsata) hive.
This one was taken at the Ateneo Campus, unfortunately no Honey Buzzards there!

It tears apart the beehive suspended on branches or in tree hollows with its claws and sticks its neck in the broken honey comb to get to its food.  Surely a high protein (larvae), high lipid (bees wax)  and high sugar (honey) diet!

Forests, bees, and birds of prey: it's truly amazing how all life is connected. 

Here's another short video clip of the Crested Honey Buzzard from Alex as it takes of from its perch to soar high above us.

Hooray for the Tanay Honey Buzzards!

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