If you are looking for a beautiful bird to add to your aviary, the European bee eater may be the perfect choice. These birds have bright colors and dynamic patterns that can really bring life to any space. In addition to their strikingly vibrant features, this species of bee eater has many interesting behaviors and habits that make them unique and fascinating creatures. From their migratory ways, nesting preferences and courtship rituals to their diet secrets – there is so much more than meets the eye with these gorgeous birds!
European Bee Eater Description
The European bee eater, also known by its scientific name Merops apiaster, is a medium-sized bird that belongs to the family Meropidae. They have a sharp, pointed beak that is slightly curved, which they use to catch and eat flying insects such as bees, wasps, and dragonflies. The European bee eater has a striking plumage that is sure to catch the eye of anyone who sees it. They have a vibrant combination of colors, with a rich golden-yellow throat and upper breast, and a greenish-blue crown, nape, and back. Their wings are predominantly brown with greenish-blue flight feathers that form a distinctive stripe when the wings are closed. They also have a black eye-stripe that extends from behind their eyes to the base of their beak.
European Bee Eater Habitat
The European bee eater is commonly found in open landscapes with short vegetation, such as meadows, river valleys, and savannas. They prefer habitats that are near water sources, as this increases their chances of finding prey. These birds can also be found in agricultural areas, such as vineyards and orchards, where they can feed on the insects that are attracted to the fruits. While their preferred habitats are often natural, these birds have adapted to human-altered landscapes, such as urban parks and gardens. They have also been known to nest in man-made structures, such as drainage pipes and buildings. In addition to their natural habitat, the European bee eater’s range has expanded due to climate change. As temperatures warm, these birds are able to breed further north, extending their range into new territories. However, this expansion is not without risk, as changes in weather patterns can disrupt their migratory routes and availability of food.
European Bee Eater Diet
The European bee eater’s diet primarily consists of insects, especially bees, wasps, and hornets, which make up more than 90% of their diet. They are aptly named for their ability to catch and consume bees on the wing, utilizing their unique bill shape to crush the stingers and remove the venom before devouring the prey. However, they also consume other arthropods such as dragonflies, butterflies, and grasshoppers. The European bee eater’s diet is not only important for their survival but also has a significant impact on the ecosystem. However, the European bee eater’s food sources are at risk due to the use of pesticides and habitat destruction. Pesticides can kill the insects that the European bee eater feeds on, while habitat destruction removes their food sources, as well as nesting sites. It is therefore essential that we take steps to protect the ecosystem, including the European bee eater and its food sources, to ensure a healthy and sustainable environment.
European Bee Eater Size
The European bee eater is a medium-sized bird, measuring about 28-29 cm in length with a wingspan of 38-44 cm. They weigh between 55-85 grams, with males being slightly larger than females. These birds have a distinctive appearance, with a slender body, long pointed wings, and a slightly curved bill. They have a bright, colorful plumage, with a golden-yellow throat and breast, chestnut-colored mantle and wings, and blue-green tail feathers.
European Bee Eater Lifespan
The European bee eater is a long-lived bird, with a lifespan of up to 20 years in the wild. Their longevity can be attributed to their excellent flying abilities, which enable them to outrun predators and avoid many other dangers. They also have a high metabolic rate, which allows them to consume large amounts of food quickly and efficiently. The European bee eater’s lifespan is affected by many factors, including habitat quality, food availability, and predation risk. They are particularly vulnerable to habitat destruction, which can lead to a loss of nesting and foraging sites. Pesticide use also poses a significant threat to their survival, as it can kill the insects that they rely on for food. During the breeding season, European bee eaters typically mate for life, with pairs returning to the same nesting site year after year. They build their nests in burrows excavated in river banks, sandbanks, or cliffs. The female lays between four to 10 eggs, and both parents take turns incubating them. The young hatch after 20 to 22 days and fledge after 25 to 35 days. Once fledged, young European bee eaters remain with their parents for several weeks, learning to hunt and fly. They then join flocks of other juvenile birds, where they spend the winter months before returning to their breeding sites in the spring.
European Bee Eater Behavior
The European bee eater is a highly sociable bird that exhibits fascinating behavior patterns. Their cooperative nature is evident in their foraging and hunting practices, which are carried out in large groups. These birds are known to work together to locate swarms of bees or wasps, and then team up to effectively trap and catch their prey. They have also been observed using a technique known as “bee-line hunting,” where they follow the flight path of individual bees or wasps to their hive and then systematically destroy it. European bee eaters are incredibly vocal birds and use various calls and songs to communicate with one another. Their repertoire includes a range of soft warbles, chirps, and chatters, as well as louder, more aggressive calls when defending their territory. They are also known for their unique courtship behavior, which includes the male offering the female gifts, such as insects or small lizards, as part of their mating ritual.
European Bee Eater Speed
The European bee eater is not only a sociable and intelligent bird, but it is also known for its exceptional speed. These aerial acrobats have an impressive flying speed, reaching up to 47 miles per hour (76 kilometers per hour). They are also gifted with excellent maneuverability, thanks to their elliptical wings, allowing them to perform sharp turns and sudden stops in midair. Their speed is essential when hunting, as they need to catch flying insects in midair. The European bee eater is well-equipped for this task, with a sharp, pointed bill and a flexible neck that can rotate up to 180 degrees. They also have a long, slender body, which makes them highly maneuverable and agile in the air.
European Bee Eater Hunting
European bee eaters are skilled hunters, with a unique combination of physical adaptations and hunting techniques that have enabled their survival for thousands of years. These birds are known for their exceptional speed, maneuverability, and agility, which they use to catch flying insects in midair. Their preferred prey includes bees, wasps, dragonflies, and butterflies. The European bee eater is equipped with a sharp, pointed bill that is perfect for puncturing the exoskeleton of its prey. They also have a flexible necks that can rotate up to 180 degrees, which allows them to keep their eyes locked on their targets while in flight. Their slender body and elliptical wings give them excellent maneuverability and control, allowing them to perform aerial acrobatics and sudden stops in midair. One of the most fascinating aspects of European bee eaters’ hunting behavior is their ability to catch highly venomous insects such as bees and wasps.
To do this safely, these birds have developed a unique adaptation that allows them to neutralize the venom before ingesting their prey. They have a special gland that secretes a mucus-like substance, which they rub on the insects before consuming them. This substance neutralizes the venom, allowing the bee eater to swallow the insect without any harm. Another impressive aspect of European bee eaters’ behavior is their cooperative hunting techniques. They often hunt in groups, taking advantage of their social structure and communication skills to coordinate their movements and improve their chances of success. They create synchronized flight patterns, dive in unison, and circle their prey to create confusion and disorientation, making it easier to catch them.
European Bee Eater Breeding and Reproduction
Like most birds, European bee eaters typically breed during the warmer months of the year. The exact timing of their breeding season varies depending on the local climate and availability of food. These birds usually form pairs that work together to build a nest in an underground burrow or hollow tree. Once a suitable nesting site is established, both parents take turns incubating their eggs until they hatch. Both parents also help feed and care for their young after they are born. European bee eaters are known to be highly social, often raising their young with other members of their flock. This cooperative behavior gives them an advantage when it comes to finding food and protecting their families from predators. After reaching adulthood, these birds migrate south for the winter, usually in large groups. This behavior helps protect them from predators and ensures they will have access to food during the colder months.
The European bee eater is an impressive bird with remarkable hunting abilities. Their physical adaptations and cooperative behavior enable them to catch highly venomous insects, such as bees and wasps, safely. They also have the remarkable ability to migrate over long distances while flying in large flocks. Understanding these behaviors and adaptations is key to their conservation, as well as providing us with a deeper appreciation of the complexity of our natural world.