Honey-buzzard on the Isle of Wight

The Isle of Wight is well known in Honey-buzzard circles for its migrants. Lying due S of Northumberland, undoubtedly many of our birds overfly the island for their arrival in spring or their departure in autumn to/from the UK. Indeed from April 2011 to October 2020 27 records comprising 32 birds were noted on BirdGuides. In spring through to early autumn it could be assumed every bird seen is a migrant. However the habitat on the Wight Downs is similar to that in the South Downs and the western extreme of the island could be viewed as an extension of the New Forest. In mid-June from 15/5-20/5 2015 NR visited the island with NKH, travelling on the Yarmouth-Lymington ferry and staying in the Wight Mouse. Most of the island was visited and the weather was fine. Wetlands, often a lure for the species, near Yarmouth were scanned closely and a number of downs inland were visited as well as the coast and the historic site of Osborne House, near Cowes, with its rich woodlands.

A map of NR's sightings of Honey-buzzard in central southern England, including Hampshire, Sussex and Isle of Wight, from 2012-2019 is available here. A table summarising the sightings is given below:




Number birds

Number sites






Wight Downs










Total -- distinct sites for breeding





These are very much opportunistic sightings in a single visit of just under a week. It is not believed that more comprehensive figures are available.

Record details:

Wilmingham (Wight Downs) 15/06/2015 14:30: 2 Honey-buzzard 1  2  3 at Wilmingham, from 14:30-14:38, NE of Freshwater, soaring from wooded area to considerable height, where mutual circling; female then returned to ground while male glided W presumably to feed. Habitat for Honey-buzzard was typical downland woods and hills 1.

Yarmouth 17/06/2015 14:50: Finally here went to bridge from which had good views over the excellent Honey-buzzard habitat to S with a mixture of mature, uneven aged woods and pasture. From 14:49-14:51 tracked a male Honey-buzzard 1  2  3 from high-circling over nearest wood 1  2 to S to trees below; very elegant hanging with no flaps, usually the final stage in the display phase. So looks like 2 pairs in Freshwater/Yarmouth area, which is probably just regarded as an extension to the New Forest with an unusually big river in between: the Solent is no barrier on W side.

Parkhurst Plantation (Wight Downs) 19/06/2015 13:40: Honey-buzzard kept up their presence with a male up over the down at the uneven aged, mixed coniferous Parkhurst Plantation 1  2 on the south side from 13:35-13:45; he kept low down in the increasing W breeze, now moderate, just skimming the trees at times; the female was not seen, maybe she's incubating.

Brading Down (Wight Downs) 16/06/2015 15:40: A female from Rowborough over nearby Brading Down floating around from 15:40-15:50 over an area of woodland 1  2  3 on the S side of the down to W of village.

Osborne House E (Cowes) 18/06/2015 11:10-17:10: Had 4 Common Buzzard at 3 sites, one of which came off a newly-cut hay/silage field to E of House with a female Honey-buzzard 1 at 14:02; both birds climbed a little, being pretty indifferent to each other, before going off in opposite directions, the Honey-buzzard to SE and the Common Buzzard to NW. After coming out of the House near closing time, a male Honey-buzzard was seen 1  2  3  4 from 16:52-16:53 in butterfly display to the E. Osborne House has much extensive woodland 1  2 and pastures, a good combination for Honey-buzzard.

No birds were seen in rugged coastal scenery, which was as expected as the habitat is not suitable. None were also seen at Brightstone Forest 1  2 on 17/6, thought to be a potential downland site.

Nick Rossiter 2015-2021

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