|by Marcia Malory|
Bee-eaters comprise the family Meropidae.
They live in the Eastern Hemisphere.
Bee-eaters eat flying insects, particularly bees and wasps.
Their main food item is the honeybee.
They will also eat other flying insects, such as butterflies, dragonflies and flying ants.
A bee-eater will perch on a branch, twig or telephone wire, watching for prey.
When it spots an insect flying through the air, the bee-eater will fly after it and snatch it with its long, curved, pointed bill, using the bill like a pair of tweezers.
It will then return to its perch.
Before it eats a bee or wasp, a bee-eater will break the insect's head against its perch. It will then rub the insect's abdomen against the perch. This act causes the wasp or bee to rid itself of its venom.
Bee-eaters almost exclusively eat insects in flight. If an insect falls to the ground, the bee-eater will ignore it.
Many species of bee-eater have brightly colored feathers. Bee-eaters usually have at least some green coloring. Many species also have some blue, purple, yellow or red plumage.
Bee-eaters nest in burrows in the ground, in cliffs, and in sandy banks. Some species are solitary nesters, while some nest in colonies.
Outside of breeding season, they are highly social.
A bee-eater often has a black stripe that runs over its bill and across both eyes, so that it looks like the bee is wearing a mask. Some ornithologists believe that this "mask" helps to reduce glare as the bee-eater searches the sky for prey.
It has short legs, with weak feet, which give it a shuffling gait.
The strong claws of a bee-eater enable it to remain on its perch as it waits for prey and help it to dig a nest.
Some species of bee-eater are migratory.
Beekeepers sometimes shoot bee-eaters. They consider the birds to be pests.
The European bee-eater breeds in Europe, northern Africa and western Asia and spends its winters in India, Sri Lanka and southern Africa.
It nests in colonies. The nests of European bee-eaters are long burrows, sometimes ten feet long, in sandy banks.
A clutch contains between 5 and 8 eggs. Both parents incubate the eggs.
The young are fed by their parents, as well as by older brothers and sisters.
Outside of breeding season, European bee-eaters can be found in the tops of trees.