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Meropidae – Bee-eaters

Cinnamon-chested Bee-eater in Kenya: Photo by Nathan Mixon

Meropidae, or bee-eaters, are a vibrant family of birds found primarily in Africa, Asia, and Europe. Known for their stunning plumage, these aerial hunters are named for their diet, which consists mainly of bees and other flying insects. With long, slender bills adapted for catching prey mid-flight, bee-eaters display impressive agility as they swoop and dive through the air. Many species nest in burrows dug into sandy banks, where they raise their young in colonies, exhibiting cooperative breeding behaviors. Overall, bee-eaters are a colorful and fascinating group of birds known for their aerial prowess and social nesting habits.

Overview of Meropidae

Adorned in dazzling hues, adorned with elongated central tail feathers or split tails in various species, bee-eaters are among the most elegant aerial insectivores found in the Eastern Hemisphere. Patient hunters, they await their prey from perches, specializing in capturing large flying insects such as wasps and bees, skillfully removing their stings before consumption. Bee-eaters typically inhabit savannas and forests, where solitary tree perches offer ideal vantage points for their hunting flights, occasionally expanding their range into more open areas with the aid of man-made structures or large animals for perching. Many species exhibit cooperative breeding behaviors, forming colonies and enlisting the help of additional individuals in the demanding task of excavating nest burrows.