Merops nubicoides (Southern carmine bee-eater, Carmine bee-eater) 

Rooiborsbyvreter [Afrikaans]; iNkotha-enkulu [Zulu]; Muhembo/Sisampamema [Kwangali]; Nkhonyana [Tsonga]; Karmijnrode bijeneter [Dutch]; Guêpier carmin [French]; Scharlachspint [German]; Abelharuco-róseo [Portuguese]

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Merops nubicoides (Southern carmine bee-eater, Carmine bee-eater) Merops nubicoides (Southern carmine bee-eater, Carmine bee-eater)
Southern carmine bee-eater. [photo Callie de Wet ©] Southern carmine bee-eater juvenile, holding prey. [photo Callie de Wet ©]

The Southern carmine bee-eater is found from Tanzania south to Botswana, Zimbabwe and surrounds, where it occurs mainly in savanna. It feeds exclusively on insects generally larger than that of other bea-eaters, such as termite alates, cicadas and locusts. It lives in huge colonies of 100-1000 nests, dug into riverbanks and gullies. The nest is excavated by both sexes, and consists of a 1-3.5 m long tunnel, ending in an unlined nest chamber. It lays 1-6 eggs, which are incubated by both sexes, for 11-13 days. The chicks stay in the nest for 11-20 days, and are brooded continuously by both parents for the whole nestling period.

Distribution and habitat

Endemic to sub-Saharan Africa, occurring from Tanzania south to north-eastern Namibia (including the Caprivi Strip), northern and eastern Botswana, Zimbabwe, Mozambique and north-eastern South Africa. Here it is locally common in savanna, swamps with scattered dead trees and cultivated land, especially in areas surrounding rivers and lakes.

Distribution of Southern carmine bee-eater in southern Africa, based on statistical smoothing of the records from first SA Bird Atlas Project (© Animal Demography unit, University of Cape Town; smoothing by Birgit Erni and Francesca Little). Colours range from dark blue (most common) through to yellow (least common). See here for the latest distribution from the SABAP2.  

Brood parasites

It has been recorded as host of the Greater honeyguide.

Call

 
   

Recorded by Roger Bolton, Near Beatrice, Zimbabwe 1965, [© Transvaal Museum]

 

Food 

It feeds exclusively on insects, which are generally larger than the prey of other bee-eaters. Does most of its foraging aerially, often flying long distances to take advantage of eruptions in insect population. It is quick to take advantage of bushfires, catching the insects as they flee. The following prey items have been recorded in its diet:

Breeding

  • It is monogamous, living and breeding in huge colonies of 100 to 1000 nests. It may rarely change the colony site, sometimes moving 7 km's in the process.
Merops nubicoides (Southern carmine bee-eater, Carmine bee-eater)
Southern carmine bee-eater colony. [photo Peter Steyn ©]
  • The nest is excavated by both sexes, consisting of a 1-3.5 m long tunnel ending in an unlined nest chamber. It is usually dug into sandy riverbanks, ditches or sloping ground.
  • Egg-laying season is year-round, peaking from September-October.
  • It lays 1-6 eggs, which are incubated by both sexes, for 11-13 days.
  • The chicks stay in the nest for 11-20 days, and are brooded continuously by both parents for the whole nestling period.

Threats

Not threatened, although shot by farmers who consider them pests.

References

  • Hockey PAR, Dean WRJ and Ryan PG (eds) 2005. Roberts - Birds of southern Africa, VIIth ed. The Trustees of the John Voelcker Bird Book Fund, Cape Town. 

 

 

 

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