Meropidae – Bee-eaters
The Meropidae or Bee-eaters are a group of near-passerine birds containing three genera and 27 species. Most species are found in Africa and Asia, with a few in southern Europe, Australia, and New Guinea. They are characterised by richly coloured plumage, slender bodies, and usually elongated central tail feathers. All have long down-turned bills and medium to long wings, which may be pointed or round. Male and female plumages are usually similar.
As their name suggests, bee-eaters predominantly eat flying insects, especially bees and wasps, which are caught in the air by flights from an open perch. The stinger is removed by repeatedly hitting and rubbing the insect on a hard surface. During this process, pressure is applied to the insect thereby extracting most of the venom.
Most bee-eaters are gregarious. They form colonies, nesting in burrows tunnelled into vertical sandy banks, often at the side of a river, or in flat ground. As they mostly live in colonies, large numbers of nest holes may be seen together. The eggs are white, with typically five to the clutch. Most species are monogamous, and both parents care for the young, sometimes with assistance from related birds in the colony.
Bee-eaters may be killed by raptors, their nests are raided by rodents and snakes, and they can carry various parasites. Some species are adversely affected by human activity or habitat loss, but none meet the International Union for Conservation of Nature’s vulnerability criteria, and all are therefore evaluated as ‘least concern’.
Bee-eaters are fairly indiscriminate in their choice of habitat. Their requirements are simply an elevated perch from which to watch for prey and a suitable ground substrate in which to dig their breeding burrow. Because their prey is entirely caught on the wing they are not dependent on any vegetation type. A single species, the Blue-headed Bee-eater, is found inside closed rainforest where it forages close to the ground in poor light in the gaps between large trees. Six other species are also closely associated with rainforest, but occur in edge habitat such as along rivers, in tree-fall gaps, off trees overhanging ravines or on emergent tree crowns above the main canopy.
Their conspicuous appearance means that they have been mentioned by ancient writers and incorporated into mythology.
According to the IOC there are 27 species in this family, which are:
Red-bearded Bee-eater Nyctyornis amictus
Blue-bearded Bee-eater Nyctyornis athertoni
Purple-bearded Bee-eater Meropogon forsteni
Black-headed Bee-eater Merops breweri
Blue-headed Bee-eater Merops muelleri
Blue-moustached Bee-eater Merops mentalis
Black Bee-eater Merops gularis
Swallow-tailed Bee-eater Merops hirundineus
Little Bee-eater Merops pusillus
Blue-breasted Bee-eater Merops variegatus
Cinnamon-chested Bee-eater Merops oreobates
Red-throated Bee-eater Merops bulocki
White-fronted Bee-eater Merops bullockoides
Somali Bee-eater Merops revoilii
White-throated Bee-eater Merops albicollis
Böhm’s Bee-eater Merops boehmi
Green Bee-eater Merops orientalis
Blue-cheeked Bee-eater Merops persicus
Olive Bee-eater Merops superciliosus
Blue-tailed Bee-eater Merops philippinus
Rainbow Bee-eater Merops ornatus
Blue-throated Bee-eater Merops viridis
Chestnut-headed Bee-eater Merops leschenaulti
European Bee-eater Merops apiaster
Rosy Bee-eater Merops malimbicus
Northern Carmine Bee-eater Merops nubicus
Southern Carmine Bee-eater Merops nubicoides
Blue-throated Bee-eater Merops viridisIUCN Species StatusBlue-throated Bee-eater Merops viridis has most recently been assessed for The IUCN Red List of Threatened Species in 2016. Merops viridis is li
Ethiopian Bee-Eater Merops lafresnayiiSpecies AccountEthiopian Bee-eater Merops lafresnayii has most recently been assessed for The IUCN Red List of Threatened Species in 2016. Merops lafresnayii is listed as Least Concern.
European Bee-eater Merops apiasterSpecies AccountSound archive and distribution map.
European Bee-eater Merops apiasterSpecies AccountThe European bee-eater (Merops apiaster) is a near passerine bird in the bee-eater family Meropidae. The genus name Merops is Ancient Greek for "bee-eater", and apiaster is Latin, also meaning "bee-eater", from apis, "bee". It breeds in southern Europe and in parts of north Africa and western Asia. It is strongly migratory, wintering in tropical Africa. This species occurs as a spring overshoot north of its range, with occasional breeding in northwest Europe.
European Bee-eater Merops apiasterIUCN Species StatusEuropean Bee-eater Merops apiaster has most recently been assessed for The IUCN Red List of Threatened Species in 2016. Merops apiaster is listed as Least Concern.
Rainbow Bee-Eater Merops ornatusIUCN Species StatusRainbow Bee-eater Merops ornatus has most recently been assessed for The IUCN Red List of Threatened Species in 2016. Merops ornatus is listed as Least Concern.
Rufous-crowned Bee-eater Merops americanusIUCN Species StatusRufous-crowned Bee-eater Merops americanus has most recently been assessed for The IUCN Red List of Threatened Species in 2016. Merops americanus is listed as Least Concern.
Southern Carmine Bee-eater Merops nubicoidesSpecies AccountSound archive and distribution map.
Southern Carmine Bee-eater Merops nubicoidesSpecies AccountThe southern carmine bee-eater (Merops nubicoides) (formerly carmine bee-eater) occurs across sub-equatorial Africa, ranging from KwaZulu-Natal and Namibia to Gabon, eastern Democratic Republic of the Congo and Kenya.
White-throated Bee-eater Merops albicollisBirdLife Species AccountBirdLife species account…
White-throated Bee-eater Merops albicollisSpecies AccountSound archive and distribution map.
White-throated Bee-eater Merops albicollisSpecies AccountThe white-throated bee-eater (Merops albicollis) is a near passerine bird in the bee-eater family Meropidae. It breeds in semi-desert along the southern edge of the Sahara, Africa. The white-throated bee-eater is migratory, wintering in a completely different habitat in the equatorial rainforests of Africa from southern Senegal to Uganda.
White-throated Bee-eater Merops albicollisIUCN Species StatusWhite-throated Bee-eater Merops albicollis has most recently been assessed for The IUCN Red List of Threatened Species in 2016. Merops albicollis is listed as Least Concern.
Number of bird species: 27
Kingfishers, Bee-eaters & Rollersby C Hiliary Fry, Kathie Fry and alan Harris Helm 1992 ISBN: 0713680288 Buy this book from NHBS.com
Cinnamon-chested Bee-eater Merops oreobatesGalleryImage