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THE EUROPEAN BEE-EATER

30 June 2014

www.leopard.tv

The European bee-eater Merops apiaster occurs widely in Africa, central and eastern Europe and Asia. It was first described scientifically in 1758 by Linnaeus based on a specimen from southern Europe, is migratory and returns to Africa from August to early October. The specific epithet apiaster means bee-eater in Latin. The European bee-eater is from 25 to 29 cm tall, weighs some 52 g and the two sexes look alike, but the female is slightly duller than the male. It has a deep-green tail and rump, a golden-yellow upper back and a chestnut head and neck. The lower chest and belly are a deep turquoise while the legs and feet are purplish brown. The recurved bill is black and the eyes are crimson. In South Africa it is ubiquitous but it occurs less frequently in the Free State, southern KwaZulu-Natal and the Eastern Cape province. It is largely absent from hê grassland parts of Gauteng, the Free State and the eastern Cape.

The European bee-eater is highly gregarious and often forms loose flocks of up to 100 birds. It occurs in a wide diversity of habitats but avoids overly dry and wet regions. It forms large flocks, sleeping colonially in leafy trees in groups of several hundred birds that sit shoulder to shoulder. It skims the water surface when drinking water and foraging is done on the wing when it can dive from as high as 150 m to catch flying prey. Nevertheless it also forages... (Become a subscriber for more)

Reference:

Hockey, P A R, W R J Dean and P G Ryan (eds) 2005. Roberts – Birds of southern Africa, seventh edition. Cape Town: The John Voelcker Bird Book Fund, pp 195 - 196.

Article by Prof J du P Bothma

 

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