Comments on Letter: Breeding Honey-Buzzards in Britain, published May 2003


Collins Bird Guide, Mullarney, K, Svensson, L, Zetterström, D, & Grant, Peter J, (2001), Collins Field Guides, HarperCollins, London.

Combridge, P, Christie, D A, & Ferguson-Lees, J, (2003), Breeding Honey-Buzzards in Britain, British Birds 96(5) p.258-260.

Ferguson-Lees, James, and Christie, David A, Raptors of the World, Christopher Helm (2001).

Roberts, S J, & Lewis, J M S, (2003), Observation of Honey-buzzard Breeding Density in Britain, British Birds 96(1) p.37-39.


The letter cited above by Combridge, Christie & Ferguson-Lees is essentially a reply to recent publications by Roberts, the most recent of which is also cited above. The letter stresses that:

All the above, other than the last statement, seem eminently reasonable. However, it is possible that in some respects the authors of the letter are missing the big picture:

None of these 'big picture' points on their own might be that significant but taken together, they provide the context for a steady rise in the Honey Buzzard population in Britain since around 1990. The view of the current status of the Honey Buzzard in Britain seems to be linked very much to the relationship assigned between the number of pairs found (69 in the 2000 survey) and the actual number of breeding pairs. On the one hand a conservative ratio of 1:1 can be assigned (assuming all nests known) and on the other a ratio of 1:5 as found for the Hobby Falco subbuteo. Observers in southern England tend to go for a ratio of 1:1, those in the north and west, with vast amounts of habitat to search, to a higher figure. Strategically the idea that all nests can be found for a difficult to identify, highly secretive, short-stay summer migrant occupying a broad range of habitats with brief periods of visibility seems to be very fanciful.

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