Definitions

bee-eater

bee-eater

[bee-ee-ter]
bee-eater, any of the brightly colored, insect-eating birds of the family Meropidae. They range in length from 6 to 14 in. (15-36 cm). The plumage of many species is predominantly green but usually includes a variety of other bright colors. Many species have a black stripe running from the eye to the base of the long, sharp bill. They are found throughout the tropical and warm-temperate Old World but are most numerous in the tropical regions of Africa and Asia. Some species are migratory, and the few that breed in temperate areas, such as Merops apiaster, the common, or European, bee-eater, winter in the tropics. Most of the Meropidae are gregarious, and the birds of some species travel in flocks of hundreds or thousands of individuals. The nests of most species are colonial burrows, excavated in the sand of riverbanks or road grades. Bee-eaters catch insects on the wing; they subsist primarily upon bees and wasps. They are classified in the phylum Chordata, subphylum Vertebrata, class Aves, order Coraciiformes, family Meropidae.

The bee-eaters are a group of near passerine birds in the family Meropidae. Most species are found in Africa but others occur in southern Europe, Australia and New Guinea. They are characterised by richly coloured plumage, slender bodies and usually elongated central tail feathers. All are colorful and have long downturned bills and pointed wings, which give them a swallow-like appearance when seen from afar. There are 26 different species of bee-eaters.

Description

As the name suggests, bee-eaters predominantly eat flying insects, especially bees and wasps, which are caught in the air by sallies from an open perch While they will pursue any type of flying insect, honey bees predominate in their diet. Hymenoptera (ants, bees and wasps) comprise from 20% to 96% of all insects eaten, with honey bees comprising approximately one-third of the Hymenoptera.

Before eating its meal, a bee-eater removes the sting by repeatedly hitting the insect on a hard surface. During this process, pressure is applied to the insect thereby extracting most of the venom. Notably, the birds only catch prey that are on the wing and will ignore flying insects once they land.

Bee-eaters are gregarious. They form colonies by nesting in burrows tunnelled into the side of sandy banks, such as those which have collapsed on the edges of rivers. Their eggs are white and they generally produce 2-9 eggs per clutch (depending on species), which are widely distributed and common. As they live in colonies, large numbers of these holes are often seen together, white streaks from their accumulated droppings accentuating the entrances to the nests. Most of the species in the family are monogamous, and both parents care of the young, sometimes with the assistance of other birds in the colony..

Species list in taxonomic order

The bee-eater family consists of two subfamilies - the bearded bee-eaters Nyctyornithinae, and Meropinae, the typical bee-eaters.

FAMILY: MEROPIDAE

References

External links

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