The Green Bee-eater
, Merops orientalis
, (sometimes Little Green Bee-eater
) is a near passerine
Near passerine or higher land-bird assemblage are terms often given to arboreal birds or those most often believed to be related to the true passerines due to ecological similarities; the group corresponds to some extent with the Anomalogonatae of Garrod All near passerines are land birds...
Birds are feathered, winged, bipedal, endothermic , egg-laying, vertebrate animals. Around 10,000 living species and 188 families makes them the most speciose class of tetrapod vertebrates. They inhabit ecosystems across the globe, from the Arctic to the Antarctic. Extant birds range in size from...
in the bee-eater
The bee-eaters are a group of near-passerine birds in the family Meropidae. Most species are found in Africa and Asia 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...
In biological classification, family is* a taxonomic rank. Other well-known ranks are life, domain, kingdom, phylum, class, order, genus, and species, with family fitting between order and genus. As for the other well-known ranks, there is the option of an immediately lower rank, indicated by the...
. It is resident but prone to seasonal movements and is found widely distributed across sub-Saharan Africa
Africa is the world's second largest and second most populous continent, after Asia. At about 30.2 million km² including adjacent islands, it covers 6% of the Earth's total surface area and 20.4% of the total land area...
Senegal , officially the Republic of Senegal , is a country in western Africa. It owes its name to the Sénégal River that borders it to the east and north...
and The Gambia
The Republic of The Gambia, commonly referred to as The Gambia, or Gambia , is a country in West Africa. Gambia is the smallest country on mainland Africa, surrounded by Senegal except for a short coastline on the Atlantic Ocean in the west....
Ethiopia , officially known as the Federal Democratic Republic of Ethiopia, is a country located in the Horn of Africa. It is the second-most populous nation in Africa, with over 82 million inhabitants, and the tenth-largest by area, occupying 1,100,000 km2...
, the Nile
The Nile is a major north-flowing river in North Africa, generally regarded as the longest river in the world. It is long. It runs through the ten countries of Sudan, South Sudan, Burundi, Rwanda, Democratic Republic of the Congo, Tanzania, Kenya, Ethiopia, Uganda and Egypt.The Nile has two major...
valley, western Arabia and Asia
Asia is the world's largest and most populous continent, located primarily in the eastern and northern hemispheres. It covers 8.7% of the Earth's total surface area and with approximately 3.879 billion people, it hosts 60% of the world's current human population...
India , officially the Republic of India , is a country in South Asia. It is the seventh-largest country by geographical area, the second-most populous country with over 1.2 billion people, and the most populous democracy in the world...
Vietnam – sometimes spelled Viet Nam , officially the Socialist Republic of Vietnam – is the easternmost country on the Indochina Peninsula in Southeast Asia. It is bordered by China to the north, Laos to the northwest, Cambodia to the southwest, and the South China Sea –...
. They are mainly insect eaters and they are found in grassland, thin scrub and forest often quite far from water. Several regional plumage variations are known and several subspecies have been named.
Like other bee-eaters, this species is a richly coloured, slender bird. It is about 9 inches (16–18 cm) long with about 2 inches made up by the elongated central tail-feathers. The sexes are not visually distinguishable. The entire plumage is bright green and tinged with blue especially on the chin and throat. The crown and upper back are tinged with golden rufous. The flight feathers are rufous washed with green and tipped with blackish. A fine black line runs in front of and behind the eye. The iris is crimson and the bill is black while the legs are dark grey. The feet are weak with the three toes joined at the base. Southeast Asian birds have rufous crown and face, and green underparts, whereas Arabian beludschicus
has a green crown, blue face and bluish underparts. The wings are green and the beak is black. The elongated tail feathers are absent in juveniles. Sexes are alike.
The calls is a nasal trill tree-tree-tree-tree
, usually given in flight.
Several populations have been designated as subspecies:
- viridissimus is found from Senegal to northern Ethiopia (has more green on the throat, crown and nape with long streamers)
- cleopatra from the Nile Valley to northern Sudan
- flavoviridis from northern Chad to Sudan
- muscatensis on the Arabian plateau (more yellowish green with narrow gorget on throat)
- cyanophrys found in Israel and the Arabian region (includes meccanus)
- beludschicus(=biludschicus) Iran to Pakistan (paler colours with a blue throat)
- orientalis in India and Sri Lanka (has head and neck tinged with rufous)
- ferrugeiceps (=birmanus) in northeastern India, Myanmar, Thailand and Vietnam (has rufous crown, name and mantle)
- ceylonicus in Sri Lanka has the nape and hindneck with more pronounced golden brown sheen often included within the nominate race
A study of species within the genus Merops
based on plumage characteristics found that most of the subspecies of orientalis
grouping together with the most similar species being Merops leschenaulti
and subspecies ferrugeiceps
appeared closer to that group.
Leucistic individuals have been noted.
Distribution and habitat
This is an abundant and fairly tame bird, familiar throughout its range. It is a bird which breeds in open country with bushes. In Africa and Arabia it is found in arid areas, but is more diverse in its habitats further east. This species often hunts from low perches, maybe only a metre or less high. It readily makes use of fence wires and electric wires. Unlike some other bee-eaters, they can be found well away from water.
They are mostly see in the plains but can sometimes be found up to 5000 or 6000 feet in the Himalayas. They are resident in the lowlands of South Asia but some populations move seasonally but the patterns are unclear moving away to drier regions in the rainy season and to warmer regions in winter. In parts of Pakistan, they are summer visitors.
Behaviour and ecology
Like other species in the genus, bee-eaters predominantly eat insect
Insects are a class of living creatures within the arthropods that have a chitinous exoskeleton, a three-part body , three pairs of jointed legs, compound eyes, and two antennae...
s, especially bee
Bees are flying insects closely related to wasps and ants, and are known for their role in pollination and for producing honey and beeswax. Bees are a monophyletic lineage within the superfamily Apoidea, presently classified by the unranked taxon name Anthophila...
The term wasp is typically defined as any insect of the order Hymenoptera and suborder Apocrita that is neither a bee nor an ant. Almost every pest insect species has at least one wasp species that preys upon it or parasitizes it, making wasps critically important in natural control of their...
s and ant
Ants are social insects of the family Formicidae and, along with the related wasps and bees, belong to the order Hymenoptera. Ants evolved from wasp-like ancestors in the mid-Cretaceous period between 110 and 130 million years ago and diversified after the rise of flowering plants. More than...
s, which are caught in the air by sorties from an open perch. Before swallowing prey, a bee-eater removes stings and breaks the exoskeleton of the prey by repeatedly thrashing it on the perch. Migration
Bird migration is the regular seasonal journey undertaken by many species of birds. Bird movements include those made in response to changes in food availability, habitat or weather. Sometimes, journeys are not termed "true migration" because they are irregular or in only one direction...
is limited to seasonal movements depending on rainfall patterns. These birds are somewhat sluggish in the mornings and may be found huddled next to each other on wires sometimes with their bills tucked in their backs well after sunrise. They sand-bathe more frequently than other bee-eater species and will sometimes bathe in water by dipping into water in flight. They are usually seen in small groups and often roost communally in large numbers (200-300). The birds move excitedly at the roost site and call loudly, often explosively dispersing before settling back to the roost tree.
The Little Green Bee-Eater is also becoming common in urban and sub-urban neighborhoods, and has been observed perching on television antennae, only to launch into a brief, zig-zag flight formation to catch an insect, then return to the same perch and consume the meal. This behaviour is generally observed between the hours of 7:00 and 8:00am, and after 4:00pm.
The breeding season is from March to June. Unlike many bee-eaters, these are often solitary nesters, making a tunnel in a sandy bank. The breeding pairs are often joined by helpers
Helpers at the nest is a term used in behavioural ecology and evolutionary biology to describe a social structure in which juveniles and sexually mature adolescents of either one or both sexes, remain in association with their parents and help them raise subsequent broods or litters, instead of...
. They nest in hollows in vertical mud banks. The nest tunnel that they construct can run as much as 5 feet long and the 3-5 eggs are laid on the bare ground in the cavity at the end of the tunnel. The eggs are very spherical and glossy white. Clutch size varies with rainfall and insect food density. Both sexes incubate. The eggs hatch asynchronously with an incubation period of about 14 days and the chicks grow fledge in 3 to 4 weeks and in the fledging stage show a reduction in body weight.
A study suggested that Green Bee-eaters may be capable of interpreting the behaviour of human observers. They showed an ability to predict whether a human at a particular location would be capable of spotting the nest entrance and then behaved appropriately to avoid giving away the nest location. The ability to look at a situation from another's point of view was previously believed to be possessed only by primates.
Riverside habitats were found to support high populations in southern India (157 birds per square kilometre) dropping off too 101 per km² in agricultural areas and 43-58 per square km near human habitations.
They feed on flying insects and can sometimes be nuisance to bee-keepers. The preferred prey was mostly beetles followed by hymenoptera
Hymenoptera is one of the largest orders of insects, comprising the sawflies, wasps, bees and ants. There are over 130,000 recognized species, with many more remaining to be described. The name refers to the heavy wings of the insects, and is derived from the Ancient Greek ὑμήν : membrane and...
Orthoptera is an order of insects with paurometabolous or incomplete metamorphosis, including the grasshoppers, crickets and locusts.Many insects in this order produce sound by rubbing their wings against each other or their legs, the wings or legs containing rows of corrugated bumps...
ns appear to be avoided. They are sometimes known to take crabs. Like most other birds they regurgitate the hard parts of their prey as pellets.
An endoparasitic nematodes (Torquatoides balanocephala
) that lives in the gizzard has been recorded.