Appearance There are 12 species of Bee-eater found in Kenya. A small, colourful bird, often showing various shades of green and always with a black eye-stripe. Sleek bodies, but weak, short legs with syndactyl toes (the front two are partially joined). Bills are always black and decurved. Wings are long and pointed. Tails are also long, sometimes with two central feathers longer than the others.
Habits Bee-eaters are often seen perched, waiting for their next meal to fly past. They nest either in solitary, scattered pairs or in large colonies. They nest either in the side of a soft earth bank or on the ground. Burrows are up to 3' (1metre) long, with a chamber at the end. 2 - 6 eggs are laid, which take 3 weeks to hatch. The youngsters fledge at 3 - 4 weeks. Like Kingfishers, Bee-eater nests are not cleaned out and never used again.
Diet Bee-eaters fly from their perch and often have to make acrobatic manoevres to catch bees or wasps, before returning to the perch and rubbing & banging their quarry against the perch, to rid it of venom, before swallowing it whole. The other half of their diet are insects, caught in the same manner.
Resident Some Bee-eaters are resident in Kenya, others are paleartic migrants. Between the various species, they can be seen all over Kenya, some preferring desert and others water-side.
Extra Bee-eater Facts Some Bee-eaters that nest in burrows take shallow dives into water, to rid themselves of insects, perching with wings outstretched afterwards, to dry themselves.
Photographs Photographed at Kenya's Lake Baringo, Nairobi NP and Olare Orok Conservancy.