Little Bee-eater (Merops pusillus)

Little Bee-eaters, as their name suggests, are the smallest of Bee-eaters in Kenya at just 6" (15cm) long. The diagnostic features is the black patch on the breast-band, bordered by yellow above and light brown / orange breast & belly below. They have a green crown, nape and back. A thin blue stripe above the eye and a black eye-mask. A rufous-coloured tail has green centre feathers and a V-shaped black tip. Bright red eyes. They have small, weak legs and feet, with the front toes party joined (syndactyl). Long, decurved black bills are ideal for catching their prey. This bird is often mistaken for the much larger Cinnamon-chested Bee-eater which has no blue eye-stripe.

Little Bee-eaters are mostly seen in pairs, sometimes larger groups, especially in the early mornings, when they huddle together for warmth. They are often seen perched low to the ground, favouring dead branches, to better see their prey.
They dig long burrows with a chamber at the end for nesting, in vertical sandy banks, usually near water. Between 4 - 6 white, round eggs are laid and icubation, undertaken by both parents, takes up to 3 weeks. The young fledge after a further 3 weeks. Nests are never kept clean and are abandoned after each clutch. They will live for up to 18 years in the wild.

Like all Bee-eaters, the Little Bee-eater's diet consists of flying insects, in particular bees and wasps. They often return to the same perch and they de-venom these stinging insects by rubbing the prey on their perch before tossing it into the air, catching, then swallowing it. It is fascinating to watch their colourful, aerobatic flight, chasing their prey at breakneck speed.

Little Bee-eaters are seen over most of Kenya, from sea-level up to 2000 metres and common in open country.

Extra Little Bee-eater Facts
Little Bee-eaters have a frequent, short and repetitive call "tseep".
Being such a colourful bird, they attract predators like Eagles.

Photographed at Kenya's Olare Orok Conservancy.

Categories & Keywords
Subcategory Detail:
Keywords:bee-eater, bird, kenya, little bee-eater, wildlife

Little Bee-eater ~ Tossing Grasshopper

Little Bee-eater tossing Grasshopper into the air while perched on a branch.

Little Bee-eater ~ Showing Off Catch

Little Bee-eater, perched on a branch, showing off its meal of a Grasshopper.

Little Bee-eater ~ Beak Wide Open

A Little Bee-eater, beak wide open, swallowing a Grasshopper.

Little Bee-eater ~ Perched Sideways

Detailed photograph of Little Bee-eater, perched on dead Acacia branch.

Little Bee-eater ~ Times Five

Five Little Bee-eaters lined in a row on a branch, warming themselves in early morning sunshine.

Little Bee-eater ~ Front & Back

Composite photographs showing both the back and front of a Little Bee-eater.

Little Bee-eater ~ Larger Than Life

A larger than life-size photograph of a Little Bee-eater, photographed in Kenya.