The Honey Buzzard Big Day

Adult female Honey Buzzard in active spring migration across the Strait of Gibraltar - by Yeray Seminario
Adult female Honey Buzzard in active spring migration across the Strait of Gibraltar.

In early May the Honey Buzzard play the leading role in the raptor migration in the Strait of Gibraltar. This is, no doubt, among the most celebrated and awaited periods for international birders and nature enthusiast visiting Tarifa. Thousands of this otherwise rather secretive and forest-dwelling raptors will cross the ocean between Africa and Europe in massive streams. Crosswind direction, westerlies vs easterlies, will determine the flyway, which may range from the Rock of Gibraltar to Sierra de La Plata and beyond.

Adult Honey Buzzard crossing the ocen in a misty day in Tarifa - by Javi Elorriaga
Adult Honey Buzzard crossing the ocen in a misty day in Tarifa.

The Honey Buzzard peak migration

The first big groups of migrant Honey Buzzards where observed last 2nd of May in the Eastern side of the Strait. Tomorrow, 5th of May, we expect a BIG DAY in the Tarifa area prompted by a shift in the wind direction. Indeed, the bulk of the Western European breeding population of Honey Buzzards will cross the Strait within the ongoing fortnight. The strength and determination while on active migration of these apparently delicate raptors is admirable. The spectacle is greatly enhanced by the striking diversity in their plumage colour. Indeed Honey Buzzards shows the most striking colour polymorphism among European raptors (with all due respect from Common Buzzard). This way, some individuals show a paler-than-an-Osprey plumage, while others look completely black.

Dark morph adult male Honey buzzard in actibe migration at low height in the Strait of Gibraltar - by Javi Elorriaga
Dark morph adult male Honey buzzard in actibe migration at low height in the Strait of Gibraltar.

Remarkably, only adults will cross the Strait during spring and juveniles (born in 2017) will extend their stance south of the Sahara until next spring.

Do not miss this animation, based on satellite tracking from the University of Amsterdam showing the 3D migration route of Dutch Honey Buzzard to Africa and back across the Strait of Gibraltar.

Pale adult male Honey Buzzard with notably worn primaries in active spring migration in the Strait of Gibraltar - by Yeray Seminario
Pale adult male Honey Buzzard with notably worn primaries in active spring migration in the Strait of Gibraltar.

As every year, Birding The Stait will be in the frontline to admire this natural wonder. We cannot think of a better way to celebrate the Global Big DayContact us if you want to arrange a birding trip during the spring migration season. Be part of this phenomenal natural spectacle.