The bee-eaters are amongst the most colourful birds in the southern African region, and the smallest of them all, the aptly named Little bee-eater, is no exception. A slenderly built bird with a length of approximately 16 cm, the Little bee-eater has green upperparts, a yellow throat and black gorget. It has a brown breast that fades to a lighter shade of buff on its belly; the bill is black; eyes are blood-red; legs and feet are dark grey. The sexes are alike in both size and plumage colouration .
Little bee-eaters are fairly common and are found throughout much of sub-Saharan Africa, although in the southern African region they are found predominantly in the north and east. As suggested by its name, bee-eaters eat bees (surprise!) but they also eat wasps, hornets and other flying insects. They generally hunt from an open perch, often less than a metre above the ground, flying out briefly to seize a passing insect while in flight. Prey in bill, the bird returns to its perch and hits its prey repeatedly on a branch or other hard surface in order to remove the sting before swallowing the morsel.
Generally found in pairs or small family groups, the Little bee-eater calls with a soft “seep-seep”. Within their range they are fairly common birds and they are often to be seen perched close together on a branch or telephone wire.
They are monogamous and are solitary nesters, constructing an unlined nest at the end of a tunnel burrowed into a sandy bank, or into the sand above an Aardvark hole. The length of the tunnel varies but may be well over a metre long. The female lays a clutch of four to six eggs that hatch after an incubation period of around 20 days. The nest may be parasitized by the Greater honeyguide (Indicator indicator).
The scientific binomial for the Little bee-eater is Merops pusillus; Merops from the Greek for “a bee-eater” and pusillus from the Latin for “very small”. Thus a very small bee-eater. Can’t say better than that.