Crested Honey Buzzard

Scientific Name: Pernis ptilorhynchus

Malay Name: Helang-Lebah Asia

Chinese Name: 凤头蜂鹰

Range: 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.

Taxonomy: Polytypic. Subspecies are: orientalis, ruficollis, torquatus, ptilorhynchus, palawanensis, philippensis.

Local Subspecies: orientalis (migrant), torquatus (resident)

Size: 55-65 cm

Identification: 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.

Similar looking species: Jerdon's Baza, Changeable Hawk-Eagle, Eastern Buzzard, Common Buzzard

Habitat: Woodland.

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: Very common migrant and uncommon visitor

Conservation Status: Least Concern (BirdLife International 2021)

Location: Anywhere in Singapore during migration. Wintering birds often observed at wooded area with obvious honeycombs.

Migrant bar chart (see more bar charts):

Crested Honey Buzzard Pernis ptilorhynchus
Estimated average number of individuals by week based on eBird data, Jul 2013 to Jun 2023
Peak week Nov 05-Nov 11
Early date 01 Jul 2022
Late date 29 Jun 2019
Thousands of the migratory orientalis race pass through Singapore in Oct and Nov each year, while the rarer torquatus race is resident in the Malay Peninsula and can be observed year-round.


BirdLife International. (2021). Pernis ptilorhynchus. The IUCN Red List of Threatened Species 2021. Accessed on 1 January 2023

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.

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