Coraciiformes Taxon Advisory Group -
Carmine Bee-eater (Merops nubicus)
bee-eater regularly utilizes herds of ungulates and bush fires as an
aide in the location of food items such as grasshoppers and locusts.
In Gambia, the local name for the carmine bee-eater means "cousin
to the fire".
long-tailed bee-eater measuring approximately 9 1/2 to 10 1/2 inches
in body length (not including the tail streamers, which are approximatley
4 1/2 inches in length). The feathering is a combination of bright crimson
and carmine over most of the body with a greenish-blue crown. The throat
and chin are greenish-blue in the subspecies M.n.nubicus and
pink in the subspecies M.n.nubicoides. The trunk, wings, and
tail are crimson while the rump and undertail coverts are pale blue.
The mask and bill are black.
of the Carmine bee-eater is divided between Merops n. nubicus and Merops n. nubicoides. The Northern Carmine bee-eater (M.n.nubicus)
is found in the northern ranges of the continent including . The Southern
Carmine bee-eater (M.n.nubicoides) is found in the southern ranges
bee-eaters are commonly found in sparsely wooded and bushy savannas,
floodplains in the midst of oxbows, cultivated regions, dry grassy plains,
coastal mangroves, and lakeshores. Their primary nesting habitat consists
of high-banked, fresh-cut sandy cliffs that are almost completely free
of vegetation. Typically, this type of habitat is carved out by large
river systems winding through habitat.
the exact population would be difficult to estimate due to the relocation
of nest cliffs in subsequent years, estimates are that approximately
10% of the nesting colonies in Africa are known (totalling 130 colonies).
Each colony ranges in size from 100 to 1,000 nests and occasionally
up to 10,000 nests. From this data, a total population of approximately
5 million carmine bee-eaters would be a possibility (Fry 1984).
nature of the Carmine bee-eater means that it will take advantage of
any flying insect available as a food source, often times travelling
extensive distances to exploit any plentiful flying insect. The prey
items can include locusts, grasshoppers, flying ants, honeybees, termites,
cicadas, shieldbugs, dragonflies, butterflies, and even rarely fish
gleaned from the water surface.
have learned to take advantage of a variety of species and events to
obtain food items. They will utilize large mammals (both domestic and
wild), ground birds (such as ostrich, bustard, and storks), that stir
up insects during their travels. They will also keep pace with cars,
trucks, and tractors in order to prey on insects disturbed by the machinery.
A large column of smoke will draw flocks of bee-eaters to the fire in
order to hawk in and out of the smoke in pursuit of insects.
bee-eaters nest in large, densely packed colonies of excavated tunnels
in sandy cliff faces. There are rare incidences of tunnels being dug
in level ground. Colonies of bee-eaters may consist of only a few nesting
burrows, however it is much more likely that the colony will consist
of hundreds, and even thousands, of nesting tunnels. The tunnels are
closely grouped together, with nesting cavities being dug at a density
of up to 60 tunnels per square meter of cliff face.
nesting site may be utilized for a series of consecutive years, or the
colony may shift the entire nesting to a new point in the river bed
depending on the condition of the cliff face. In some areas, the nesting
tunnels may be excavated up to four to five months prior to the onset
of the laying season. The tunnels are horizontal and straight, typically
ranging from one to two meters in length (though records of almost four
meters have been observed). The entrance to the tunnel measures approximately
six centimeters across.
of eggs varies based on the geographic location. The birds in the higher
latitudes will lay a clutch of 3-5 eggs in February through June, while
the birds in the southern tropics will lay a clutch of 2-3 eggs in September
A successful colony of breeding Carmine bee-eaters at Disney's Animal Kingdom has been utilizing an artificial nest bank made from plywood, PVC tunnels, and plastic nest boxes for several years. A publication by Jennifer Elston (Use of Novel Nest Boxes by Carmine Bee-Eaters (Merops nubicus)
in Captivity) provides details of this nesting system. The majority of the birds raised have been parent-reared, however some have been successully hand-reared as well.
A bee-eater husbandry paper was written by Martin Vince of Riverbanks Zoo titled Bee-eaters: Their Care and Breeding.
Bee-eater Nestling Weight Gain Records: Captive Parent-reared Chicks
Bee-eater Nestling Weight Gain Records: Captive Hand-reared Chicks