European Honey-buzzard Pernis apivorus


Justification of Red List Category
This species has an extremely large range, and hence does not approach the thresholds for Vulnerable under the range size criterion (extent of occurrence <20,000 km2 combined with a declining or fluctuating range size, habitat extent/quality, or population size and a small number of locations or severe fragmentation). The population trend appears to be stable, and hence the species does not approach the thresholds for Vulnerable under the population trend criterion (>30% decline over 10 years or three generations). The population size is very large, and hence does not approach the thresholds for Vulnerable under the population size criterion (<10,000 mature individuals with a continuing decline estimated to be >10% in 10 years or three generations, or with a specified population structure). For these reasons the species is evaluated as Least Concern.

Population justification
Ferguson-Lees et al. (2001) estimated the population to number 100,000-1,000,000 individuals. In Europe, the breeding population is estimated to number 118,000-171,000 breeding pairs, equating to 235,000-342,000 mature individuals (BirdLife International 2015). Europe forms approximately 82% of the global range, so a very preliminary estimate of the global population size is 287,000-417,000 mature individuals, although further validation of this estimate is needed. Hence a revised global estimate is 280,000-420,000 mature individuals.

Trend justification
The population is suspected to be decreasing. In Europe the population size is estimated to be decreasing by less than 25% in 35.4 years (three generations) (BirdLife International 2015).


Behaviour This is a migratory species, wintering in in tropical Africa. It leaves its breeding grounds in August and September, returning between April and June (del Hoyo et al. 1994). Birds are mostly solitary except on migration, when they flock throughout, gathering in large numbers at preferred crossing points as well as roosting socially (del Hoyo et al. 1994, Ferguson-Lees and Christie 2001, Porter and Aspinall 2010). They fly chiefly by soaring, although are able to cross wide stretches of water with flapping flight (Snow and Perrins 1998, Ferguson-Lees and Christie 2001). The species is diurnal (Snow and Perrins 1998) Habitat It is a forest species, breeding in temperate and boreal woods; it is recorded up to 2,000 m (del Hoyo et al. 1994). Diet It feeds mainly on wasps and hornets, also being noted to take flying termites and locusts in Africa (del Hoyo et al. 1994). Breeding site Nests are built in woods, preferentially in deciduous trees (del Hoyo et al. 1994). Management information The species appears to require dense forest on its wintering grounds in Africa (del Hoyo et al. 1994).


Many birds are shot on migration, notably in Italy, Malta and Lebanon (del Hoyo et al. 1994, Ferguson-Lees and Christie 2001). Population declines in northern Europe have resulted from deforestation, forest conversion and shooting. Human disturbance is also a threat. Although pesticide use has not had significant impacts in Europe (due to the species living in woodland and feeding on wasps), it may do in Africa, where there are fewer restrictions on usage and the species may be poisoned through its locust prey (Ferguson-Lees and Christie 2001). It is very highly vulnerable to the effects of potential wind energy development (Strix 2012).


Text account compilers
Butchart, S., Ekstrom, J., Khwaja, N. & Ashpole, J

Recommended citation
BirdLife International (2020) Species factsheet: Pernis apivorus. Downloaded from on 23/11/2020. Recommended citation for factsheets for more than one species: BirdLife International (2020) IUCN Red List for birds. Downloaded from on 23/11/2020.