Little Green bee-eater
The Green bee-eater is a small bee-eater bird that lives in parts of Asia and Africa. It is a tiny exquisite bird which has bright emerald green plumage. It has a narrow black stripe known as a ‘gorget’ on its throat, and a black ‘mask’ running through its crimson eyes. Its two central, narrow, long black tail streamers are also distinctive, and are only present in mature birds. Male and female birds look the same.
The Green bee-eater’s vast range stretches from Mauritania in West Africa, to sub-Saharan Africa, as well as the Middle East and India as far in the north as Nepal; in Southeast Asia it is found in central China, Thailand and Vietnam. This species frequents wooded areas where there are scattered trees and bushes, keeping near streams and shores, but also occurs in arid areas that have acacia and date palms, and in dunes, near cultivated areas and big gardens. It likes bare and sandy soils.
Habits and lifestyle
Green bee-eaters are fairly gregarious birds, with 30- 300 individuals roosting next to each other on a branch, and as many as 20 gathering to dust bathe together, this activity believed to help remove excess oil from the feathers and dislodge harmful parasites. Flocks sleep together at roosts, high in trees. Except for at nighttime, they perch fairly low. They forage either alone or with a group of 15 to 20 birds. These elegant birds usually hunt low to the ground, making short swoops before returning to their perch. They sometimes perch on the backs of cattle or grazing antelope, and make sallies into vegetation close to the ground to catch insects. Before eating their prey, they remove any dirt by striking the insect several times against a hard surface. These birds make soft trilling calls, ‘trree-trree-trree’, or short, sharp alarm calls that sound like ‘ti-ic’ or ‘ti-ti-ti’.
Diet and nutrition
Green bee-eaters are insectivorous, they eat bees, Hymenoptera, bugs, beetles, termites, moths and many flies. They also eat butterflies, crickets, dragonflies, caterpillars and spiders.
Green bee-eaters are thought to be monogamous breeders, which means that a male will mate with only one female and a female will mate with only one male. The breeding season ranges from March to June or sometimes July to August, depending on the range. These birds are solitary nesters in Arabia and Africa, whereas small colonies are found in India, with larger colonies (10 to 30 breeding pairs) in Myanmar and Pakistan. These birds nest in burrows that are dug by both male and female into flat ground or a gentle slope in Africa, while in Asia it is often into a low shore. The burrow measures one to two meters in length, with the nest-chamber of around 15 cm at its end. 4-8 white eggs are laid in the chamber and incubation is 18 to 22 days, mainly carried out by the female. The young stay in the nest for 22 to 31 days while being fed by both their parents.
March-June and July-August according to the range
The Green bee-eater is common throughout its range and not currently known to suffer any major threats. However, as its main food source, bees, is decreasing, this could in the future be a problem.
According to IUCN, the Green bee-eater is common and widespread throughout its large range but no overall population estimate is available. Currently this species is classified as Least Concern (LC) on the IUCN Red List and its numbers today are increasing.
Being insectivorous, these birds may affect insect populations in their range.
Fun facts for kids
- The Green bee-eater has a distinguishing predator-avoidance behavior, in that if a potential predator looks at the bird’s nest, the Green bee-eater will not enter it until the predator looks away. This remarkable behavior shows that the bird is aware of what the predator is looking at, but also suggests awareness of a predator’s mental state. This ‘theory of mind’ awareness is typically only part of human behavior and several other primate species.
- The name "bee-eater" comes from the item the bird eats most often - bees.
- Green bee-eaters "disarm" dangerous prey by removing the stinger and eliminating the venom by means of hitting and rubbing a bee against a branch.
- Green bee-eaters are natural-born killers of bees. Even young birds that have never seen bees before know how to catch and deal with them.
- Bee-eaters follow large mammals and ground birds (like ostriches, bustards, and storks) as they stir up insects when moving around, and also keep pace with vehicles to prey on insects that have been disturbed by them.