April 13, 2015
A Patient Hunter
- as seen by -Jonathan C. Slaght
This particular bird, a crested honey buzzard, was found ambling along the forest floor in Primorye, Russia, with a broken wing; conspicuous as it plowed through pillows of autumn leaves. Such a crippling handicap is typically a death sentence for a raptor, but this bird managed to survive because, as its name suggests, honey buzzards feed on wasps and bees. More specifically, on the larvae of ground-nesting species. Honey buzzards spy these insects in flight then follow them home, a patient tactic that leads to a cornucopia of protein-laden grubs. Look around the eyes: the feathers on a honey buzzard’s head are akin to armor plating; dense and stiff. This helps these birds repel attacks by incensed wasps during nest raids.
I once handed this honey buzzard a hunk of honeycomb, waxy and dripping, which the bird clutched in its talons like an apple. It tore off chunks, rotated the malleable substance for better grip, and devoured it with zealous relish.
EDITOR’S NOTE: For our current assignment, we’re celebrating birds. Send us your best. In the New York area? Join us on May 9 for our annual Birdathon at the Bronx Zoo. Bring your camera and take photos for the assignment.
Canon Rebel XTI