The European honey-buzzard has a fairly specialised diet, feeding on the nests, larvae, pupae and adults of social insects, such as wasps, bees and hornets. When hunting, the European honey-buzzard will perch or fly, watching for foraging insects. Once it has located a suitable prey item, it will follow the insect back to its nest, which it will break apart with its powerful feet, feeding on the contents as it digs (2) (4) (5) (8). The feet of the European honey-buzzard are well adapted for walking and digging, with straight claws and a covering of thick scales, which also act to protect the bird against stinging insects. In addition, the face is covered in small, scale-like feathers, to prevent the bird from being stung as it feeds (4) (8). In periods when the main prey items are scarce, the European honey-buzzard is capable of feeding on other insect species, as well as on amphibians, small reptiles and mammals, the nestlings and eggs of other birds, and also fruits and berries (4) (6) (7) (8).
Breeding occurs during the summer months, from mid-June onwards, and is timed to correspond with peaks in abundance of bees and wasps. The nest is built in a tree, 10 to 30 metres off the ground, and is constructed of twigs and many green, leafy branches and other live plant materials, and lined with leaves (2) (4). The nest of the European honey-buzzard, which is normally newly built by the female each year, may sometimes use the foundations of an old squirrel, crow, or buzzard nest (6) (8). Following a courtship where the male European honey-buzzard will perform an undulating ‘sky-dance’, swooping, gliding, and quivering in the air, the pair will mate, and the female will produce a clutch of between one and three eggs, although most often two eggs are laid (6) (7) (8). The male and female take turns to incubate the eggs for 30 to 35 days, and, after hatching, the chicks are fed by both of the adult birds, before fledging at 40 to 44 days, and becoming independent at 75 to 100 days (2) (4) (8).