Merops pusillus (Little bee-eater) 

Kleinbyvreter [Afrikaans]; iNkotha (also applied to Woodland kingfisher) [Zulu]; Tinziwolana (generic term for bee-eater) [Tsonga]; Morôkapula (generic term for bee-eater) [Tswana]; Dwergbijeneter [Dutch]; Guępier nain [French]; Zwergspint, Zwergbienenfresser [German]; Abelharuco-dourado [Portuguese]

Life > Eukaryotes > Opisthokonta > Metazoa (animals) > Bilateria > Deuterostomia > Chordata > Craniata > Vertebrata (vertebrates)  > Gnathostomata (jawed vertebrates) > Teleostomi (teleost fish) > Osteichthyes (bony fish) > Class: Sarcopterygii (lobe-finned fish) > Stegocephalia (terrestrial vertebrates) > Tetrapoda (four-legged vertebrates) > Reptiliomorpha > Amniota > Reptilia (reptiles) > Romeriida > Diapsida > Archosauromorpha > Archosauria > Dinosauria (dinosaurs) > Saurischia > Theropoda (bipedal predatory dinosaurs) > Coelurosauria > Maniraptora > Aves (birds) > Order: Coraciiformes > Family: Meropidae

Merops pusillus (Little bee-eater)

Little bee-eater. [photo Andries Steenkamp ©]

The Little bee-eater is probably the most common bee-eater in Africa, with an estimated population of 60-86 birds! It occurs everywhere in sub-Saharan Africa except the Lowland forest areas of West Africa, and the western half of southern Africa, where it mainly lives in savanna. It feeds mostly on bees, as well as dragonflies, wasps etc. Both sexes excavate the nest, which consists of a long tunnel, ending in an egg chamber, dug into riverbanks or ditches. It lays 2-6 eggs, which are incubated by both sexes, for 18-20 days. The chicks stay in the nest for 23-24 days, after which they are dependent on their parents for several weeks more.

Distribution and habitat

Probably the most common bee-eater in Africa, with an estimated population of 60-86 million birds! It occurs across sub-Saharan Africa; in southern Africa it is common in northern Namibia, Botswana, Zimbabwe, Mozambique and north-eastern South Africa. It generally prefers dry and moist savanna, partly dry marshes, lake shores, riverbanks, farmland and grassy clearings in forests.

Distribution of Little 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 and Lesser honeyguide.

Food 

It exclusively eats insects, doing most of its hunting from low perches, hawking insects aerially before returning to the perch to beat them to death. The following insects have been recorded in its diet:

Breeding

  • Both sexes excavate the nest, which consists of a 0.5-1.3 m long tunnel, ending in a 10 cm wide egg chamber. It is usually dug into high, sandy banks such as riverbanks, ditches or plough furrows.
  • Egg-laying season is from August-February, peaking from September-December.
  • It lays 2-6 eggs, which are incubated by both sexes for about 18-20 days.
  • The chicks stay in the nest for 23-24 days, becoming fully independent several weeks later.

Threats

Not threatened.

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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