Bird of the Week – Week 143 – White-fronted bee-eater

The bee-eaters are a delightful family of birds and the White-fronted bee-eater is one of the few members of the family that can be found fairly commonly within its territory throughout the year. Its preferred habitat is along riverbanks in the north-east of the southern African region, where it is gregarious and usually to be found in groups of varying size.

White-fronted bee-eater

With a fairly average size, as bee-eaters in the region go, with a length of approximately 23 cm, the sexes are similar in both size and  plumage colouration. They have predominantly green upper parts; white forehead; a red throat with an upper band of white; brown under parts and a blue vent. Eyes are dark brown; legs and feet are dark grey and the curved bill is black.

White-fronted bee-eater

White-fronted bee-eaters forage predominantly from a perch, and feed almost entirely on insects such a honey bees, flies, moths and butterflies. They may hawk the insects in flight, or take them up from the ground or foliage without alighting. They return to the perch to feed, carefully removing the sting from the honey bees before consuming it.

White-fronted bee-eater

White-fronted bee-eaters are monogamous and pairs appear to mate for life. Their nest is in a burrow up to one metre long that they excavate in river banks. The female lays a cluth of between two and five white eggs that hatch after an incubation period of approximately 21 days. The nests may be parasitized by the Greater honeyguide (Indicator indicator).

White-fronted bee-eater

The scientific binomial for the White-fronted bee-eater is Merops bullockoides; Merops from the Greek for the bee-eater, and bullockoides from the Latin for resembling Merops bullocki, the Red-throated bee-eater which in turn was named after William Bullock. Thus the name tells us that this bee-eater looks similar to another bee-eater, which is singularly unhelpful.

White-fronted bee-eater

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