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The Kid Should See This

Crested honey buzzards feast on bee and wasp larvae

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As its name suggests, the crested honey buzzard (Pernis ptilorhynchus) is a large raptor with a preference for a small but specific prey: bee and wasp larvae, along with bits of comb and honey that come with them.

In this Nature on PBS video, crested honey buzzards, also called oriental or Eastern honey buzzards, take turns breaking a hornets’ nest apart chunk by chunk. There’s also footage of these specialist feeders digging into a bee colony’s hive. Via Wikipedia:

“Unlike most of their relatives, crested honey buzzards prefer a diet of the larvae, pupae and honey combs of social wasps. In their summer breeding grounds in Japan, the birds dig up underground social wasp nests with their talons.”

eating hornet larvae

“The short toe depth and long talon on the second digit facilitate this behaviour. In addition, the long slender beak with a hooked tip, and the eyes set far back, are adaptations well suited for foraging in underground nests. The tongue has a groove adapted for extracting larvae from the honey comb. In the wintering regions in South Asia, crested honey buzzards are observed attacking social wasp nests in trees.”

bee colony under attack

“When foraging both underground and arboreal nests, the birds have to contend with stinging attacks by wasps. The feathers around the head and neck are well suited to repelling attacks… The researchers found significant adaptations of the feathers. The honey buzzard has a dense mat of short feathers under its beak, around its eyes and nostrils and on its neck with barbules closer together. They are stiffer with more hooks and nodes for barbules to attach to one another, yielding an armour like appearance.

“The crested honey buzzard may have also evolved a chemical defense… Videos indicate that social wasps attack bears and other mammals more than they attack honey buzzards. Experiments indicate that the substance from the wings of honey buzzards renders wasps inactive. However, this is as yet speculative and the composition of the substance is yet to be determined.”

bees swarm
Watch these related raptor, bee, and wasp videos next:
β€’Β Bird Eyes: Nictitating membranes in slow-motion
β€’Β An Eagle’s Feather, an animation about the mighty Philippine Eagle
β€’Β Why do honeybees love hexagons?
β€’Β This Is Not A Bee
β€’ β€œFilming this changed how I see wasps!”

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