Tag Archives: Oriental Honey Buzzard

NSS Bird Group live on 938 radio’s Singapore Today program – discussing the Oriental Honey Buzzard in the heartlands that got netizens excited

OHB flying

An Oriental Honey Buzzard, similar to this one, got the resident of Bedok & netizens excited

The Nature Society (Singapore) Bird Group, represented by Alan OwYong and Dr. Yong Ding Li, was live on 938 radio’s Singapore Today program on 24 May 2021 to discuss the Oriental Honey Buzzard, which appeared in the HDB heartlands at Bedok, exciting residents and netizens.

A Bedok resident looked out of her 5th floor window and saw a large bird perched on top of a tree. She shared a photo of the raptor (bird of prey) on Facebook, and netizens suggested various identifications such as White-bellied Sea Eagle, Changeable Hawk-Eagle, Oriental Honey Buzzard, and even eliciting comments such as Godzilla! Maybe there is some semblance to the mystic creature as the raptor has a long neck and held an upright posture.

These are the abridged responses to the radio hosts numerous queries:

“What is it, and did it just arrive?” – Alan clarified that the raptor was an Oriental Honey Buzzard, a migratory species from the north that arrives during the autumn to spend the winter here, in this part of the world.

“Are they common and where do they come from?” – Dr. Yong shared that the Oriental Honey Buzzard is a common migratory raptor to Singapore and they come from north Asia, breeding in the temperate forests of China, the Korean Peninsula, and Japan. Satellite-tracked birds from Japan show that they migrate through China, Southeast Asia, with many passing through Singapore to Indonesia, but some birds also spend the winter in Singapore.

“It’s a buzzard, but it’s also an eagle right?” – Dr. Yong shared that ‘raptor’ is a broad term that refers to eagles, hawks, buzzards, goshawks, and other birds of prey.

“Would they pose a threat to our birds here?” – Alan commented that the Oriental Honey Buzzards feed on the larvae of bees, wasps, and hornets and that they do not pose a threat to other wildlife. Dr. Yong added that these raptors are part of our ecosystem.

“Does the public have to be careful around them?” – Alan said that the Oriental Honey Buzzards do not pose a threat to people. On the other hand, these raptors are often harassed by crows. Dr. Yong added that should someone be lucky enough to witness the Oriental Honey Buzzard feeding at a bee hive or hornet nest, that they should keep clear, as the insects may attack anything that they perceive to be a threat to their hive/nest.

“Has migration patterns of raptors to Singapore changed?” Dr. Yong responded that there is no clear trend of change for raptors but that for many migratory birds other than raptors, there has been a decline. These declines may be due to the loss of habitat in other places along their migration route. Nevertheless, it would be good to keep an eye out for migratory birds as we would like to know more about what’s going on and how best to help them.

Summering Oriental Honey Buzzards in Singapore.

Immature OHB Seng Alvin

Seng Alvin posted this photo of an Oriental Honey Buzzard taken at the Tampines Eco Green in Singapore Raptors Facebook Group on 25th August 2015. He asked if this is was a juvenile OHB. This simple question set off a lively discussion on how to age and sex the younger honey buzzards.

Tou Jing Yi said that it is not a full adult. Tan Kok Hui agreed based on the paler cere and added that this is a young male orientalis OHB.  Tou Jing Yi then pointed out the grey face and dark iris as features for the male birds.

The Oriental Honey Buzzards migrate down to Singapore around mid September from Southern Siberia, NE China, North Korea and Japan. They are mainly adult birds. The juveniles will follow a month later when we get to see them in late October and early November.

So why are we seeing a migratory orientalis honey buzzard in August? I went to ask Yoshio Yamane-san who helped with the tracking and study of two adults and one juvenile Oriental Honey Buzzards in 2005. While both adults made their way back north in the Spring, the juvenile stayed and spend the Summer in Malaysia (Higuchi et al 2005). He said that the juveniles winter in the region together with the adults but do not follow the adults back in Spring. They stay over and spend the Summer in the region as second year birds. Many will then make their first migration back north in the following Spring as third year birds. Seng Alvin’s OHB could be one of these birds.

I cannot find any literature on why the juveniles summer over the region during their second year. Could it be because of their diet? The larvae of bees, wasps and other insects may not provide enough fat for them to undertake two long migrations within a short period of six months? Since they are not ready to mate in their first three years, there is no point in making the risky journey back but instead spend the time to build up their strength and save energy.

2nd year bird OHB Danny Lau

This pale morph Oriental Honey Buzzard (right) was shot by Danny Lau on 7th July 2015 over Hort Park. He identified it as a second year bird, moulting.  An adult will have a dark trailing edge to the wings.  Based on the date, this has to be one of the juveniles that came down during last autumn and have been spending all this time in the region.

Francis Yap photographed another Oriental Honey Buzzard (below) on 5th August 2015 over the Jelutong Tower at the Central Catchment Forest.

OHB Francis Yap

It is also not a full adult, but appears to be a second year bird. He reported that it came up from the forest roost, thermal and then flew off in a South-easterly direction.  This is what the Honey Buzzards do during migration. Three days earlier Low Choon How also reported another OHB flying over the Singapore Botanic Gardens in a South-easterly direction. Based on the direction of the flight both appeared to be on an early autumn migration. But at this time of the year the Oriental Honey Buzzards are just starting their migration with the adult birds undertaking this journey first. The juveniles will stay behind in their breeding grounds to build up their strength for another month or so before making the trip in early October. Could they be flying down to Indonesia to continue their stay? Hopefully with so many keen raptor watchers in the field in the coming days and weeks, we will have more information on these Honey Buzzards and answer some of these intriguing question.

Alan OwYong, Tan Gim Cheong & Francis Yap.

Reference: The Avifauna of Singapore Lim Kim Seng 2009. Field Guide to Raptors of Asia. Vol.1. ARRCN 2012. Many thanks to Yoshio Yamane and Francis Yap for their imputs, Tou Jing Yi and Tan Kok Hui for their comments, Seng Alvin, Danny Lau and Francis Yap for their photographs and Low Choon How et all for their records.

Singapore Bird Report – June 2015

Rescued White-tailed Tropicbird from Tuas (Photograph courtesy of ACRES)

Rescued White-tailed Tropicbird from Tuas.  (Photograph courtesy of ACRES)

We all were expecting another quiet month when Yong Ding Li dropped a bombshell on 22nd. He reported that ACRES had retrieved a White-tailed Tropicbird, Phaethon Lepturus, from Pioneer Sector at Tuas. This will our very first record of an identified tropicbird in Singapore. From the yellowish wash in the plumage this is the Fulvus form. The Record’s Committee will be deliberating on its status and decide on its inclusion into the Checklist. There were two unidentified records of tropicbirds previously. One bird seen flying off Seletar on 11 December 1963 off (MBR 1964) and another in 1986 by Tan Gim Cheong off Serangoon Estuary. The nearest breeding colony is at the Cocos-Keeling and Christmas Islands.

Black-winged Flycatchershrike Wolfgang

The other big find for the month was a Black-winged Flycatcher-shrike, Hemipus hirundinaceus, photographed by a visiting German birdwatcher Wolfgang Kraemer, at Chek Java, P. Ubin on the 28th. This is our second record following Francis Yap’s sighting at the Jelutong Towers on 23 August 2013. This species was previously listed in Category F: Doubtful species because of mis-identification, but have since ungraded to Category A and added in the 2013 Checklist. Efforts to find this flycatchershrike two days later was not rewarded.

Oriental Darter Cherry Goh

The Oriental Darter captured by Cherry Goh at the Pekan Quarry on 2nd Ubin Day.

The migrants reported this month include a Black Bittern Ixobrychus flavicollis at SBWR on 1st (Andy Dinesh). During Ubin Day an Oriental Darter Anhinga melanogaster, made a surprised appearance at the Pekan Quarry. It was first seen there by John Ascher sometime in April (per con Andy Dinesh). This Darter was first reported at Ketam Quarry co-incidentally during the first Ubin Day on 30th October 2014. It is not in our current checklist but these sightings will strengthen its inclusion. There were two sightings of the Oriental Honey Buzzards, Pernis ptilorthyncus, one a juvenile at the Botanic Gardens on 18th by Tan Eng Boo and the other a second year bird over at Dempsey Hill on 20th by Sampath Ah. Both are summering and will only return north next spring.

Blue-eared KF Wolfgang

A rare find for Pulau Ubin of a Blue-eared KingFisher by Wolfgang Kraemer.

Non-breeding visitors reported were a Malaysian Hawk Cuckoo Hierococcyx fugax, at the Kranji Park on 13th by Sampath Ah and the Cinereous Bulbul Hermixos flavala,at Chek Java on 28th by Wolfgang Kraemer. Wolfgang also photographed our forest Blue-eared Kingfisher, Alcedo meninting, there showing how this once Central Catchment species have spread. Choo Chong Teck showed us a photo of a Chrysococcyx cuckoo taken at the Tampines Mountain Bike Trail on 27th. It turned out to be another Horsfield Bronze Cuckoos Chrysococcyx basalis, at a new location. The Austral cuckoos at Punggol Barat were still wintering there as of the 28th based on reports from See Toh Wai Yew.

Grey-headed Fish-eagle David Awcock 2

Fishing Grey-headed Fish-eagle caught by David Awcock at the Swan Lake.

The resident Grey-headed Fish-eagles, Ichthyophaga ichthyaetus, were keeping the photographers busy with their daily fishing antics at the Singapore Botanic Garden’s Swan Lake. They were first videoed by Jeremiah Loei on 10th. A pair of Buffy Fish Owls Ketupa ketupu, were roosting at the Rain Forest section of the gardens (Zacc HD 13th). They were first spotted at the Gardens by Richard White last month on 8th May. We think that they may have been flushed out from the Tyersall side due to the construction of the new extension to the gardens.

The once rare Crested Goshawks Accipiter trivirgatus, are now being seen more often. Seng Alvin photographed a second year bird in flight over at Pasir Ris Park on 10th with another photographed at Ang Mo Kio Park by Audrey Ngo on 7th. Jia Wei Woo was delighted to have captured a Peregrine Falcon Falco peregrinus flying over at the Swan Lake on 27th. It was the resident ernesti race.

Other notable records were an Asian Drongo-Cuckoo Surniculus lugubris, photographed at the Dillenia Hut by Vincent Lao on 28th. This should to be our resident subspecies barussarum. A pair of Plaintive Cuckoos, Cacomantis merulinus were photographed at Punggol Barat on 23rd by Liz How. We usually get to see single bird of this species. From the sightings this month, it is evident that we cannot slack off for any periods if we are to keep track of the rarities.

Reference: Avifauna of Singapore. Lim Kim Seng. 2009. A field Guide to the Birds of Thailand and South-east Asia. Craig Robson Asia Books Ltd.2000. Field Guide to the Birds of Australia. Simpson and Day, Edited by Francis Yap and Yong Ding Li. The above records are taken from the various bird FB groups. pages, reports and forums.  Many thanks for your postings. Many thanks to ACRES, Wolfgang Kraemer, David Awcock and Cherry Goh for the use of the photographs.

Which Honey Buzzard is this? Alan OwYong and Tan Gim Cheong.

OHB at PRP Seng Alvin

Juvenile Oriental Honey Buzzard (orientalis) at Pasir Ris Park that prompted this blog. Photo: Seng Alvin.

Seng Alvin  posted a photo of a juvenile Oriental Honey Buzzard on Bird Sightings FB page recently. After some discussion he asked “Can tell me the specific species of OHB?.  What he wanted to know is if there a difference between a Crested Honey Buzzard and an Oriental Honey Buzzard? What is a resident torquatus race? We will try to answer these questions in this blog.

OHB Seng Alvin

A maturing adult Oriental Honey Buzzard (orientalis), the most common sub species that passed through Singapore during the winter months. Photo: Seng Alvin.

For simplicity, let’s consider that the genus Pernis” broadly consists of Western Honey Buzzard (P. apivorus), Eastern Honey Buzzard (P. ptilorhynchus) and Barred Honey Buzzard (P. celebensis) belonging to the endemic races in The Philippines and Indonesia.

The Western Honey Buzzard is a summer migrant to Europe and West Asia, and it winters in Africa.

Due to the biodiversity in the Asia Continent, the Eastern Honey Buzzard has evolved into two groups. The migratory orientalis may be referred to as Oriental Honey Buzzard and the sedentary ptilorhynchus broadly classed under Indomalayan or Crested Honey Buzzard. (Note that most guidebooks treat them as one species, often using the name Oriental Honey Buzzard).


A typical migratory dark morph adult male Oriental Honey Buzzard (orientalis).

The migratory Oriental Honey Buzzard, orientalis, breeds across Eurasia, Central Siberia, Northern Japan, Korea and North East China. They migrate to continental South East Asia, Indonesia and The Philippines during the winter months. This is the most common subspecies of Honey Buzzard that passes through Singapore from September with the adults arriving early followed by juveniles in October. Some, mostly juveniles may winter here. In March, a smaller number can be observed passing through on their Spring migration back North.

There are five races of the non-migratory Crested Honey Buzzard, ptilorhynchus. They breed in the Indian subcontinent, southern China, IndoChina, The Philippines, Indonesia, Thailand and Malaysia. They are largely sedentary although local movement and dispersal have been recorded.


Non migratory Crested Honey Buzzard P. ptilorhyncus. This is the torquatus race that breeds in Malaysia and Southern Thailand and visits us mostly in the summer. Photo: Alan OwYong.

The P.p. torquatus is one of the five races of the Crested Honey Buzzard that breeds in Malaysia (Perak) and Southern Thailand.  This is the Honey Buzzard that visits us mostly in the summer. We may also be getting some from Indonesia during other times although we do not have any evidence of this movement. These are listed as non-breeding visitors until they decide to breed here.  All of them have drooping crests as they mimic hawk eagles some with rufous barrings on their underparts.

OHB Tweedale 2 Seng Alvin

Crested Honey Buzzard torquatus race, tweedale morph that is trying to mimic the Blyth’s Hawk Eagle.Photo: Seng Alvin at Pasir Ris Park.

There is also a Tweedale morph of the torquatus race that mimics the Blyth’s Hawk Eagle with their darker plumage. We hope that this short summary will help with the separation of the Honey Buzzards that you get to see in Singapore.

References: The Avifauna of Singapore. Lim Kim Seng. 2009. Field Guide to Raptors of Asia. Volume 1. ARRCN 2012. A Field Guide to the Birds of Thailand and South-East Asia. Craig Robson. 2000. Wikipedia.

Migration of Juvenile Oriental Honey Buzzards over central Singapore.


Over 400 migrating Oriental Honey Buzzards were counted from the top terrace at Telok Blangah Hill (TBH) on 9th November 2014 as part of the Annual Raptor Watch. This is the largest count for any inland locations apart from Tuas South. Kent Ridge Park which lies west of TBH also reported a high count in the hundreds. It seems that the change of wind direction at the on set of the North East Monsoon may have push the migration further inland.


The kettle sizes ranged from 15 to 40 birds all flying in from North West to South East. It was quiet the whole morning and the first wave came at 1.50 pm. Then it was wave after wave with all of them gliding in one direction. At times they looked like an invasion armada of planes . Once they found a thermal, they will then ride on it circling up to gain height before continuing with the journey southwards.

Yoshio Yamane-san told me that they found the OHB hotel in northern Johor near the highway from the satellite tracking program. This is partly why we get to see them flying over our island in the early afternoon.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA27 OHBs part of the flock of 40

Towards the end some came down to eye level to where we were. One of two even dropped down into the trees below to take a rest. This reminds me of the spectacle at Tanjong Tuan where the Honey Buzzards came down low after crossing the Malacca Straits. Many of them were less than ten storeys high when they glide over the hill top giving us excellent views and opportunity for some good photos.

Surprising all the photos of the OHBs showed a lack of the dark trailing wing edges.These are juvenile first year birds making their migration after all the adult birds have left This behavior was the same for the European Honey Buzzards as well  They will spend the next two winters in Indonesia and matured. Then they will fly back to Korea and Japan during Spring 2016 together with the rest of the adult birds ( per con Yoshio Yamane)