Thursday, 17 September 2020

European Bee Eaters

These beautiful pictures of European Bee-eaters Merops apiaster (Fr. Guepier d'Europe) were taken by our friend Ingrid near La Roche Posay in mid-July. I think these bee-eaters must be Europe's most colourful avian species!

European Bee-eater Merops apiaster. Vienne. France. Photo by Ingrid de Winter for Loire Valley Time Travel.
Photo courtesy of Ingrid de Winter.

It sounds like bee-eaters had a good breeding year and friends in the Pyrenees have reported large feeding flocks going over on their way back to tropical Africa for the winter.


European Bee-eater Merops apiaster. Vienne. France. Photo by Ingrid de Winter for Loire Valley Time Travel.
Photo courtesy of Ingrid de Winter.

A very gregarious species, you rarely see just one. You usually hear them making their prrpp prrpp call before you see them too. They nest in colonies in the sandy banks of some of the big rivers here, such as the Vienne and the Creuse. 


European Bee-eater Merops apiaster. Vienne. France. Photo by Ingrid de Winter for Loire Valley Time Travel.
Photo courtesy of Ingrid de Winter.

As their name suggests, they eat bees, and studies show that honey bees make up the bulk of their diet. But they don't really pose a threat to apiarists, as they only get about 1% of the managed honey bees. They also eat wasps, hornets and dragonflies, catching them on the wing.


European Bee-eater Merops apiaster. Vienne. France. Photo by Ingrid de Winter for Loire Valley Time Travel.
Photo courtesy of Ingrid de Winter.

To catch their prey bee-eaters perch out on a high exposed bare branch and make sorties, bringing the prey back to bash against the perch before eating it. Studies show bee-eaters do best with a mixed diet of bees and dragonflies.


European Bee-eater Merops apiaster. Vienne. France. Photo by Ingrid de Winter for Loire Valley Time Travel.
Photo courtesy of Ingrid de Winter.

European Bee-eater Merops apiaster. Vienne. France. Photo by Ingrid de Winter for Loire Valley Time Travel.
Photo courtesy of Ingrid de Winter.

European Bee-eater Merops apiaster. Vienne. France. Photo by Ingrid de Winter for Loire Valley Time Travel.
Photo courtesy of Ingrid de Winter.


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6 comments:

Colin and Elizabeth said...

Very Nice, never seen one at all, great photos.

Le Pré de la Forge said...

"I think these bee-eaters must be Europe's most colourful avian species!"
By miles.... I call them the Benneton Bird.
Next would be Kingfisher, followed bt Teal and Roller[but that is fairly much restricted to the South]

Susan said...

Goodness! How unlucky that you never saw one when you lived here!!

Susan said...

It is interesting this hemispheric divide in how colourful birds are.

chm said...

Very good and lovely photos! The name of your friend made me think of Rebecca. No relation, I guess.

Susan said...

Ingrid is not a fictional character, so no relation.

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