Merops apiaster Linnaeus, 1758
Common names: European Bee-eater [En], Guêpier d’Europe [Fr], Bijeneter [Nl], Bienenfresser [De], Gruccione commune [It], Abejaruco Europeo [Es], Ευρωπαϊκός μελισσοφάγος [Gr], Avrupa arı kuşu [Tu]
IUCN Status: LC (Least Concern)
Kalloni, LESVOS ● Greece
Description: This species, like other bee-eaters, is a richly-coloured, slender bird. It has brown and yellow upper parts, whilst the wings are green and the beak is black. It can reach a length of 27–29 cm, including the two elongated central tail feathers. Sexes are alike. Female tends to have greener rather than gold feathers on shoulders. Non-breeding plumage is much duller and with a blue-green back and no elongated central tail feathers. The wings and backs of juvenile European bee-eaters are entirely green, and the eyes are brown, in contrast to the bright red eyes of adults.
Adults begin to moult in June or July and complete the process by August or September. There is a further moult into breeding plumage in winter in Africa.
Biology: As the name suggests, bee-eaters predominantly eat insects, especially bees, wasps, and hornets. They catch insects in flight, in sorties from an open perch. Before eating a bee, the European bee-eater removes the sting by repeatedly hitting the insect on a hard surface. The most important prey item in their diet is Hymenoptera, mostly Apis mellifera. A study in Spain found that these comprise 69.4% to 82% of the European bee-eaters' diet. Their impact on bee populations, however, is small. They eat less than 1% of the worker bees in areas where they live.
During courtship, the male feeds large items to the female while eating the small ones himself. Most males are monogamous, but occasional bigamy has been encountered. These bee-eaters are gregarious—nesting colonially in sandy banks, preferably near river shores, usually at the beginning of May. They make a relatively long tunnel, in which they lay five to eight spherical white eggs around the beginning of June. Both male and female care for the eggs, which they brood for about three weeks. They also feed and roost communally.
Habitat: This bird breeds in open country in warmer climates.
Distribution: It breeds in southern Europe and in parts of north Africa and western Asia. It is strongly migratory, wintering in tropical Africa. This species occurs as a spring overshoot north of its range, with occasional breeding in northwest Europe.
Wikipedia, European bee-eater