My visit to Laotieshan in Liaoning Province provided an excellent opportunity to get to grips with one of China’s most numerous raptors – the Oriental (Crested) Honey Buzzard. We saw well over 1,500 of these birds during the first few days of our visit from 24 September, but clearly the bulk of these relatively early migrants had already passed through… Numbers tailed off pretty quickly at the end of Sep/early Oct, just as the number of Common Buzzards (a later migrant) began to increase. The 4th October was the first day that Common Buzzards outnumbered Oriental Honeys. I suspect that a survey from late August at Laotieshan would reveal several thousand Oriental Honey Buzzards (OHB) passing through (one local birdwatcher told us that the first OHBs of the autumn passed through on 2 September at Laotieshan).
The OHBs we saw were mostly juveniles but there were a few late adults mixed in (adults tend to migrate earlier). The variation, as with European Honey Buzzard (EHB), is astonishing.
The main differences between OHB and EHB are as follows:
Size: OHB is larger with broader wings and 6 ‘fingers’ (vs 5 in EHB), sometimes recalling an Aquila eagle in silhouette.
Plumage: OHBs, as with EHBs, are highly variable, especially in juvenile plumages. One of the main plumage differences between the two are that OHBs do not usually have a contrasting carpal patch and have a relatively shorter and fuller tail than EHBs.
In this post I am including some images of the birds we saw, with some comments about age and sex. Please feel free to contact me if you think I have any wrongly labelled!