The Oriental Honey Buzzards of Ninety-nine Peaks


Oriental Honey Buzzard (Pernis ptilorhynchus) is one of the raptors in Taiwan that specifically builds their nests in “ferns”. While other buzzards migrate between cold northern continent and warm southern islands, they prefer to propagate in Taiwan. Ninety-nine Peaks is their major habitat. With different feather colors, this species can only be distinguished from other birds by their long narrow beak and sharp claws. However, it is certain that all oriental honey buzzards love to eat pupa of bees.

The Oriental Honey Buzzard of Ninety-nine Peaks is a documentary produced by Raptor Research Group of Taiwan and published by Forestry Bureau, Council of Agriculture Executive Yuan in 2011. This film not only was nominated in the 34th Montana International Wildlife Film Festival but also won the first –run film in the National Ecological Film Festival and the Best Animal Behavior Award at the 2011 Japanese Wildlife Film Festival.

It is still debatable whether oriental honey buzzard is resident or migratory or winter bird species, but the film documented they built nests in tress and bred. Moreover, the research group captured oriental honey buzzards broke up hornet hives with repeated hits and enjoyed pupae upside down the first time. Buzzards will flap their wings quickly during the courtship period and both male and female take turns incubating eggs, defending nests, and looking for food.

The film not only discovered precious scenes of oriental honey buzzards’ activities, but also the interaction between them and human. Male bees serve only one purpose in life - to mate with the queen, and are themselves not beneficial for making honey. So apiarists will discard drone pupae when there are too many of them. Undoubtedly, the pupae are a feast for oriental honey buzzards. Thus, many buzzards are found on apiaries and the owners do not chase them away as buzzards are not harmful to bees. Unfortunately, some people believe that eating raptors is good for health, so apiaries become the perfect place to hunt. Therefore, some buzzards are trapped to death; even those escape have no chance to fly in the sky again.

Although the film shows oriental honey buzzards maintain harmonious relationship with apiaries, some problems worth pondering emerged: Will buzzards lose their ability to break up wasp and hornet hives to look for food as they can feed on the throwaway drone pupae easily? Will this phenomenon cause the increase of wasp and hornet in number?