Bee-eater with bee in its beak.

Bee-eaters

Busy, busy, busy

Type

flamingo

Birds

Area

Map of Africa

Africa

Endangered Status

Stable

facts

size
9.5 inches
maximum length
A pencil is 7.5 inches long.
Bee-eater compared to a pencil in size.
food
insects
insectivore

Bees are a favorite, but bee-eaters eat other flying insects, too.

habitat
varied
earth

There are 22 species of bee-eaters, and they live in a variety of warm-climate habitats, ranging from rain forests to deserts.

description

Bee-eater opening its beak as a tossed bee heads for its gullet.

What's the buzz?

These fast, fierce birds fearlessly pluck bees (and other flying insects) out of the air in flight. First, they rap the bee’s head on a branch to stun it. Then, they rub the bee’s tail against a branch to remove the stinger and venom sac. They swallow the bee whole. Bee-eaters help keep insect populations in balance.

Bee-eaters in front of a dirt wall filled with multiple nest holes.

More the merrier

Bee-eaters sleep in nest holes deep in the earth or in cliffs. They dig the burrows with their feet. Many kinds of bee-eaters live in huge, busy colonies. They sleep inside their nest holes at night and travel to feeding areas during the daytime. During nesting season, they perch near the nest holes at dusk to visit, socialize, and pair up.

Bee-eater parent feeding a bee to a chick on its dirt tunnel nest.

Help at home

Often, close relatives—both males and females—help parent pairs with the “kids.” They assist in digging a nest chamber, protecting the nest, bringing food, incubating eggs, and caring for young birds. Even adult, bonded pairs sometimes skip a breeding season to help their relatives instead.