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The Wildebeest's guide to South Africa

European Bee-eater

Afrikaans name: Europese byvreter

European Bee-eater

Above - European Bee-eater

Photo © Steven Herbert

Merops apiaster

During the South African summer the European Bee-eater visits and may be quite common in some areas. It can be found over most of South Africa during summer but, strangely, it doesn’t occur in an area between Port Elizabeth and just north of Durban. During our winter these birds head back to southern areas of Europe and Russia.

Although most of these birds are just visitors to our country there are some pairs that breed. They nest in a tunnel that may be up to 2 metres in length. They lay between 2 and 6 eggs.

Although they are a Bee-eater by name they are not quite so restricted in their diet. Besides bees and wasps they will catch other insects such as butterflies, dragonflies, grasshoppers and termites in flight.

European Bee-eaters are virtually always seen in flocks although the flock may be scattered over a wide area with one or two birds perched on a bush or tree. They prefer habitats that offer them plenty of perches such as bushveld or savanna.


References and further reading

A First Guide to South African Birds - 7th Edition - Author: Leonard Gill - Year Published: 1975 - Page: 100

Animals of the Kruger National Park - Author: G. de Graaff - Year Published: 1987 - Page: 94

Birds of the South Western Cape - Author: Joy Frandsen - Year Published: - Page: 138

Collins Illustrated Checklist - Birds of Southern Africa - 1st edition - Author: Ber van Perlo - Year Published: 1999 - Page: 44

Field Guide to the Birds of Kruger National Park - Author: Ian Sinclair and Ian Whyte - Year Published: 1991 - Page: 126

Field Guide to the Cradle of Humankind - Author: B. Hilton-Barber & Prof. L. R. Berger - Year Published: 2004 - Page: 182

Roberts' Birds of Southern Africa - 5th Edition - Author: Gordon Lindsay Maclean - Year Published: 1985 - Page: 381

Roberts' Birds of Southern Africa - 6th Edition - Author: Gordon Lindsay Maclean - Year Published: 1993 - Page: 378

Sasol Birds of Southern Africa - 4th Edition - Author: Ian Sinclair et al. - Year Published: 2011 - Page: 260

List of South African Birds

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