Scientific Name: Pernis ptilorhynchus
Malay Name: Helang-Lebah Asia
Chinese Name: 凤头蜂鹰
Breeds in southwest and northeast China through east Asia to Japan. This population (orientalis) migrates south to southeast Asia. Also present from the Indian subcontinent through southeast Asia, east to the Philippines. The Sundaic population (torquatus) is a non-breeding visitor to Singapore.
Polytypic. Subspecies are: orientalis, ruficollis, torquatus, ptilorhynchus, palawanensis, philippensis.
Local Subspecies: orientalis (migrant), torquatus (resident)
Size: 55-65 cm
A vary variable species with plumage colours ranging from white, rufous to black. Has a small pigeon-like head distinct both when perched and in flight. The local torquatus race has a distinct crest. Often confused with the Changeable Hawk-eagle, from which it can be told apart by its smaller head, less rounded (longer and more rectangular) wings, longer tail, and unfeathered tarsus (hard to see when perched). Common and Eastern Buzzard likewise rounder body, proportionally shorter tail and rounder wings as well.
Behaviour/Ecology: One of the commonest migrants in Singapore and often seen travelling in a convoy. This species has a unique behaviour of raiding bee and hornet hives in search for food, especially larvae. The regional subspecies torquatus, which could potentially be split as a full species in the near future, is sometimes seen in Singapore too, though less frequently.
Local Status: Common migrant and uncommon non-breeding visitor
Conservation Status: Least Concern (BirdLife International 2021)
Location: Anywhere in Singapore during migration. Wintering birds often observed at wooded area with obvious honeycombs.
- RAP101: How to Identify Common Raptors (ID Articles)
- RAP301: What is that raptor? (ID Articles)
- Singapore Birds Project Raptor Watch at Henderson Waves (Blog)
Migrant bar chart (see more bar charts):
BirdLife International. (2021). Pernis ptilorhynchus. The IUCN Red List of Threatened Species 2021. https://dx.doi.org/10.2305/IUCN.UK.2021-3.RLTS.T22694995A199637824.en. Accessed on 19 December 2021
DeCandido, R., Siponen, M., Smit, H., Pierce, A., & Allen, D. (2015). Flight identification and migration pattern of the Oriental Honey Buzzard Pernis ptilorhynchus orientalis in southern Thailand, 2007–2014. BirdingASIA, 23, 27-33.
Robson, C. (2014). Field guide to the birds of South-East Asia (Second Edition). Bloomsbury Publishing, London.