Sunday, 30 August 2015

Day 291 - Beautiful and Elegant Bee-Eaters

Bee Eater (Merops apiaster) in the centre -
the bird on the post was a Great Spotted Woodpecker
Hey everyone, today's Day 291 and instead of keeping you waiting on what today's species is, I am just going to say that I am covering my favourite European bird. The Bee-Eater! Now, I know what you're thinking. But, no. I didn't go abroad. There is actually a pair nesting in Cumbria so I took the opportunity and me and my Dad drove up there. It took two hours but we went though some amazing countryside and knew that when we got there there would be an amazing bird to see! We managed to get some good(ish) pictures. It was incredible to see the different colours on them and how they would take Dragonflies almost the same size as them! Watching them fly and hearing them call was really lovely. We stayed quite a while as the adults hadn't been feeding them for a while, The RSPB were expecting that they would fledge today and it seems that the adults were trying to encourage them out but we didn't get to see them fledge. My photos show these birds off very well, they are really colourful, very beautiful, but they were too far away really  for my camera to capture them well.

So, what did I find out about these amazing birds?:

  • There have been only four records (including this pair) of European Bee-Eaters actually nesting in the UK. This makes them a 'Schedule 1 species' and it's illegal to disturb them.
Both parents were around - one here has an insect
  • They were recorded in Cumbria in 2015, The Isle of Wight in 2014, County Durham in 2002 and the first time was 1994 in Sussex.
  • They are usually found in Southern Europe, Spain and Portugal sort of area, because of this, they aren't actually assessed (green, amber and red) here.
  • The reason they are up here is because they have been pushed up by climate change and are able to stop and nest here.
  • There isn't just one type of Bee-Eater, there are actually 26 species of them, 23 of them are in the family 'Merops'.
A grainy digiscoped shot - with the Golden Ringed Dragonfly
  • The European Bee-Eater doesn't just stay around the South of Europe, it can be found in Africa and as for North as Sweden. An incredible 11 million square kilometres.
  • They are called Bee-Eaters but they don't just eat Bees. They have BEEn (:-) seen eating Dragonflies. You can see the photo to the right of one eating a Golden Ringed Dragonfly.
  • One reason that they may have nested in a Quarry is because they have a lot of dust. Apparently they do something called 'Dust Bathing' to keep down parasites.
  • Bee-Eaters need to catch around 225 bees a day to feed their family (including themselves). I'm not sure how this ties in with Dragonflies but I'd say they must be worth at least two.
  • To get rid of the sting on the Male (because Female don't have them) they will actually rub them against a fence post or something.
In flight
  • They are about 28cm in length and they have a wingspan of 46cm. Both Males and Females weigh about 61g.
  • The juveniles will actually weigh more than the parents when they are a couple of days from fledging as they will eat more.
  • The reason I say a couple of days before is because the to encourage the youngsters out the parents effectively starve the chicks out of the nest by tempting them out with food and not actually giving them it.
  • There are between 280 to 600 thousand pairs in the Summer in all of Europe and in the World, between 2,940,000-12,000,000 can be seen.
  • The nest is up to 3 metres long (I think) and apparently the Males will lose about 30% of their beak when they dig it out.
Here are some links to some more information:

Hope you enjoyed,



  1. Congrats on seeing these delightful birds , cracking photos & write up , i was lucky enough to have seen the Isle of Wight birds in 2014 .

  2. They're such pretty birds, it's so cool that you managed to see them! I haven't had a chance to get out and spot them so I am living through your photos! - Tasha

  3. I would have loved to see the Bee-eaters, maybe next time. I am very impressed with your blog, I've just found it and will certainly keep reading. Keep it up.

  4. Saw the picture on twitter. Great work!

  5. Thanks Rob, Natasha and Simon :-)

    Thank you too Judi - they should be around for another week or so yet the RSPB man reckoned.

  6. Great shots. Maybe you would like to link to Wild Bird Wednesday which runs on my photoblog and opens on (wait for it!) Wednesday!

    Cheers - Stewart M - Melbourne