Tag Archives: White-fronted Bee-eater

White-fronted Bee-eater

Merops bullockoides

White-fronted Bee-eaters inhabit wooded grasslands and savannas, mostly near large rivers or other reliable water bodies, where they feed mainly on flying insects caught on the wing – most notably honey bees, which make up about ¾ of their diet. They weigh between 30 and 40g.

White-fronted Bee-eaters have a complex and interesting social system. They roost and nest colonially (colonies can number between 20 and 300 birds), requiring large sandbanks in which to dig their tunnels, and will also utilise quarries and erosion ditches for this purpose. Each colony is made up of several distinct groups, known as clans, within which there are between 3 and 6 families made up of a monogamous breeding pair (mating for life) and between 1 and 5 non-breeding birds, usually offspring from previous broods, that will assist their parents to raise a brood. Breeding reaches a peak in spring and early summer. Nesting tunnels are 1-1.5m long with a chamber at the end and dug by both parents and their helpers at the onset of the breeding season. Females lay between 2 and 5 eggs, and cases have been noted of unattached females lying eggs in the nests of unrelated birds when they are not at their post. The eggs are incubated for three weeks by both parents and helpers, and the chicks then fledge at between 3 and 4 weeks old, after which their parents start teaching them to hunt.

The IUCN views the White-fronted Bee-eater as being of least concern, with a widespread, common and increasing population. In South Africa the species is distributed over most of the Free State, Kwazulu-Natal, Gauteng, North West, Limpopo and Mpumalanga and a few locations in the Northern and Eastern Cape into which it appears they are expanding their range of late. Outside of our borders, these bee-eaters are found in a wide area of East and Central Africa, avoiding the arid regions in the south-west.