It’s got to be the honey buzzard! Nope, me neither, never heard of one. Heard of buzzards, but not the honey buzzard or Pernis apivorus or the pern or common pern.
I have made its acquaintance during my travels for work at a farm, where it sits patiently on a phone wire, examining the fields beneath it for a quick meal. It is different from the common buzzard which is native to the UK and a year-round resident. The honey buzzard is one of those visitors that winters in Africa. According to Wikipedia:
Despite its English name, this species is more closely related to kites of the generaLeptodon and Chondrohierax than to true buzzards in Buteo. The binomen is due to Linné, derived from περνης, an Aristotelian term for a bird of prey, and Latin apivorus”bee-eating” (although bees are much less important than wasps in the bird’s diet).
I suppose the purported bee-eating is where the ‘honey’ in its English name comes from. Although, the farmer whose fields it was surveying thought it had to do with its color. International Union for Conservation of Nature and Natural Resources and Birdlife International both note its insect-based diet.
However, my farmer friend insisted that he saw it eating a rabbit just the other day. The topic of the honey buzzard led to a discussion of birds of prey and farming. I was surprised to hear a farmer remark on the the cruelty of a bird of prey hunting, well, for prey. He seemed to want to conflate this action with the problems birds of prey cause to farmers. Unfortunately, he took my expression of surprise at his comment on the birds’ cruelty (it was feeding itself after all, quite natural) as some kind of tree-hugger, anti-farmer reaction. He went on to provide further evidence of a crow’s cruelty by telling me he had once seen a crow pecking out the eyes of a dying sheep in a field. As unpleasant a sight as I would find that, I still cannot ascribe any cruelty to the crow….
What I did find interesting is that he went on, without any irony or sense of self-awareness, to talk about the good meals the sheep provide. If the crow is cruel, cannot we consider ourselves to be? No, apparently, as the sheep are specifically raised for this purpose. At this point I gave up.
My purpose in recounting this is not to disparage the farmer or farming. It really is just to express my surprise at the reaction to the natural behavior of an animal from one who makes his living among animals. It was surprising that he would react to an animal feeding itself by calling it cruel. I often find people who talk about how much they ‘love’ nature to have an extremely unrealistic view of it. So, I thought it would be a change to speak to someone who had some experience with nature.
The struggle between farmers and other animals, birds of prey as an example, is quite a different issue and not one which I am inclined to be drawn on except to note that it is a complex issue, not as simple as either side would seem to want to make it.
Talking about red in tooth and claw
The mean girls (bees) are still hanging in there. This year I am looking forward to swarming, for once….
But let’s talk of something pretty
You may or may not remember my last blog post about the mysterious little jewels I found littering a parking lot. Well, my pal Jo has let me know that they are indeed called Chinese Lanterns (Physalis alkekengi or bladder cherry or Japanese lantern or winter cherry), and the above photo illustrates what it look like ‘in bloom.’ As striking a color as the little orange seedling from which it springs.
Honey Buzzard: taken from Wikimedia Commons, http://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Wespenbussard_European_honey_buzzard_Pernis_apivorus.jpg, by Andreas Trepte (Own work) [CC BY-SA 2.5 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/2.5)%5D, via Wikimedia Commons
Chinese Lantern: taken from Wikimedia Commons, http://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:PhysalisAlkekengi-balloon.jpg, uploaded by TeunSpaans in 2005
I loved your recounting of the conversation with the farmer. Geez. There still is a notion that natural behavior is cruel, but from one benefiting from the industrial production of animals, well, there’s not much to add.
I do however love your bird. He looks like our Cooper’s Hawk, at least a little. Quite beautiful. And your Chinese lanterns. There are some gardeners here in Austin who grow relatives of that plant–so pretty.
Yes, I was surprised, but I hope my comments didn’t come across as disparaging in any way. He is a lovely man, and I think his feelings were with the victims in these exchanges which isn’t a bad thing. But neither is it a bad thing that another creature is only trying to feed itself or its young.
Love Chinese Lanterns but they took over my garden!
Yes, these things can be annoying when they take over. But I still would like a little snippet (my friend Jo has promised me one).
Beautiful plant…I have been called a ‘tree hugger’ here in my neighborhood …. I understand that everything has to eat. The bird is eating to survive, not as sport…Michelle
Oh my, I hope you were not called that in anger! Those are my feelings: the bird hunts to survive, just as we do. Achieving the right balance so both humans and birds can feed themselves without harming the interests of either should be the goal….