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European Bee-eater
(Merops apiaster)

European Bee-eater

General description

This species, like other bee-eaters, is a richly-coloured, slender bird. It is set apart from other bee-eaters with its combination of yellow throat, black gorget, turquoise underparts and brown and yellow back

Sexes are alike but juveniles lack tail streamers and the gorget is less pronounced and generally duller and greener..

The flight call is a very distinctive and made up of liquid and melodious notes.

Name & classification

Scientific name:
Merops apiaster

Common names:
European Bee-eater (English)
Europese Byvreter (Afrikaans)

Eurasian Bee-eater

Roberts VII english name:
European Bee-eater

Roberts VII scientific name:
Merops apiaster

Bee-eaters (Meropidae)

Further information

23cm (25cm incl. streamers)


As the name suggests, bee-eaters predominantly eat insects, especially bees, wasps, and hornets. They catch insects in flight, in sorties from an open perch. Before eating a bee, the European bee-eater removes the sting by repeatedly hitting the insect on a hard surface.

European Bee-eaters feed and roost communally.

During courtship, the male feeds large items to the female while eating the small ones himself.

These birds are highly gregarious and are often seen in flocks of 20 to 100.

These bee-eaters are gregarious—nesting colonially in sandy banks, preferably near river shores, usually at the beginning of May.

They make a relatively long tunnel, in which they lay five to eight spherical white eggs around the beginning of June.

Both male and female care for the eggs, which they brood for about three weeks.

Natural distribution:
These bee-eaters arrive in South Africa mostly in October and depart from warmer African climates in late March to early April.

They can be found in a wide range of woodland and shrubland, but absent from the driest and wettest regions.

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