Be Your Own Birder

Discover the European Bee-Eater

Birds in bright colors are always astonishing, and few are as astonishing as the European bee-eater. It is more than just this bird’s coloration, however, that makes it amazing, and the more you learn about these birds and their habits, the better you’ll appreciate and enjoy them.

European Bee-Eater - Photo by Vince Smith
European Bee-Eater – Photo by Vince Smith

European Bee-Eater Fun Facts

  • Part of the Meropidae bird family, the European bee-eater (Merops apiaster) is one of more than 30 bee-eater species in the world. These birds are sometimes called Eurasian bee-eaters or golden bee-eaters.
  • Africa has the greatest diversity of bee-eaters, but these birds can be found throughout the Arabian peninsula, India, Indonesia, southeast Asia, and as far as the Philippines and Australia. The European bee-eater, of course, is found in Europe, and has the widest range of any bee-eater.
  • A European bee-eater can eat as many as 250 bees a day, but their diet includes much more than bees. They also eat other stinging insects, including hornets and wasps, as well as butterflies, flying ants, termites, dragonflies, and other insects that they catch in the air.
  • These bee-eaters are very social and even nest in groups, digging burrows for nesting. Different birds may even help dig nests out for their neighbors! Nests are dug in sandy riverbanks, cliffs, and similar areas.
  • European bee-eaters have a slight immunity to bee venom. When they catch a stinging insect, however, they take no chances and whack their prey against a branch or rock to kill it, then rub the insect against the surface to discharge the sting so it is safe to eat.
  • Prejudice against bee-eaters can be a serious threat to these birds, though studies have shown the birds have no significant negative impact on honeybee populations. Poaching, habitat loss, and overuse of insecticides are other threats the European bee-eater faces.
European Bee-Eater in Flight - Photo by yves hoebeke
European Bee-Eater in Flight – Photo by yves hoebeke

Adding the European Bee-Eater to Your Life List

These colorful birds are relatively easy to spot within their range. They tend to return to a favorite perch over and over as they hunt insects, giving birders great opportunities for spectacular views and photographs. European bee-eaters are found in a variety of habitats, particularly river valleys and meadows. Insect life must be plentiful to support the birds’ dietary needs, and there should be suitable perches – trees, large shrubbery, large rocks, or overhead wires – available. Because European bee-eaters are strongly migratory and travel in family groups, they can often be seen in migration hotspots, particularly over the Straits of Gibraltar as they move between their European breeding range and African wintering range.

Learn More About the European Bee-Eater

There is always more to learn about every bird, especially the more amazing and entertaining species. These resources can help you discover even more about the European bee-eater…

European Bee-Eater - Photo by Fondazione Enpam
European Bee-Eater – Photo by Fondazione Enpam

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