31 July 2011

Male Crested Honey-Buzzard - Dhahran Hills

Yesterday whilst checking the scrubby desert area of Dhahran Hills I saw a largish Honey-Buzzard fly over and away. Unfortunately it was flying directly into the sun but I could make out it was a Honey-Buzzard type and it appeared to be getting lower and maybe about to land. As we get both European Honey-Buzzard and Crested Honey-Buzzard I went to try to get better views but had no idea where the bird had gone. Fortunately as I was walking through the football field area I saw the bird on the ground and managed to get a couple of photographs of it. On looking at the bird, even though it was perched, it became apparent it was a Crested Honey-Buzzard as it was a male with a bluish head and had a dark eye. European Honey-Buzzard adult would have a yellow eye. The bird then flew off to a nearby tree and I could see it had two thick tail bars diagnostic of Crested Honey-Buzzard rather than the tree thinner tail bars of European Honey-Buzzard. A walker then disturbed the bird and it flew off showing the six fingered hand, broad wing and lack of carpel patch diagnostic of Crested Honey-Buzzard. Although the photographs are not very good they show the key identification points of the bird.

The status of Crested Honey-Buzzard is not clear in Saudi Arabia, or the remainder of the Arabian Peninsula, with more sightings being seen in both the United Arab Emirates and Saudi Arabia in recent years. A record in July is very unusual though as most records are from the late autumn migration period and winter with additional records in the spring migration period of March to May. As this record was so early I sent it to Dick Forsman, and asked about timing of Crested Honey Buzzard migration. He mentioned (pers com.) “This is definitely too early for return migration, so it must be a summering individual. Interesting, as it is an adult male, when one would expect first-years to linger, not adults”. This is the first summer record I know for Saudi Arabia and possibly for the Arabian Peninsula.

Crested Honey-Buzzard records spring 2011:-
Immature - 13th March
Adult Female - 13th March
Adult Male - 5th & 6th May
Adult Female - 7th May