Working for birds in Africa

First record of Oriental Honey Buzzard for Djibouti and Africa, in 1987

pp 96-97

Première mention de la Bondrée orientale Pernis ptilorhynchus pour Djibouti et l’Afrique.

Un rapace photographié sur le côté djiboutien du Bab-el-Mandeb en novembre 1987 a été récemment identifié comme une Bondrée orientale Pernis ptilorhynchus juvénile, la première mention pour Djibouti et l’Afrique.

Counts of migratory birds crossing the Babel-Mandeb strait into northern Djibouti in October 1985 and October–November 1987 recorded 80,732 and 246,478 soaring migrants, respectively, establishing the Bab-el-Mandeb as a major migratory bottleneck (Welch & Welch 1988). As would be expected with these numbers of birds, a proportion remained unidentified—972 in 1985 and 65,296 in 1987—usually because they were too distant for identification to species, but occasionally because their identity was not immediately obvious. Some of these unidentified birds were photographed. One was the raptor shown in Fig. 1, photographed sometime between 1 and 9 November 1987 (exact date unknown) and at the time recorded as ‘honey buzzard?’ due to its tail pattern. However, the bird otherwise lacked the characteristic features of European Honey Buzzard Pernis apivorus, i.e. prominent dark carpal patches, sparsely barred inner primaries and secondaries (usually three bars) and five visible primaries. Early November is also rather late for a migrant of this species. Furthermore, at Bab-elMandeb the species is either uncommon (five in 1985; 17 in 1987) or migrates earlier in autumn. As the literature available at the time did not point to the possibility of any other species—and there was no internet—attempts to identify the bird on our return to the UK were unsuccessful. The image was consigned to the ‘mystery birds’ box in our slide collection and largely forgotten.

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