A bird that eats bees: Meet the European Bee-eater

south african wildlife artist

south african wildlife artistEuropean Bee-eater (Merops apiaster

Contrary to its name, the European Bee-eater bird is also found in parts of Northern and Southern Africa. The European Bee-eater is actually just one type out of 27 other incredible species worldwide. 20 of which can be spotted in Africa, one being the European Bee-eater. So how can you spot this particular species? One of many things which makes this bird so unique, are the variety of coloured feathers which it boasts. As one can see in the drawing above, by South African wildlife artist, Matthew Bell, this species is one of the most colourful birds in the entire world. This species in particular, has brown, orange and yellow upper parts, with green winged feathers and a black beak.

“I love drawing birds, especially the brightly coloured ones…”


Do they only eat bees?

Although given the name “Bee-eater,” these birds tend to eat other insects as well, rather than a diet consisting only of honey and bumble-bees. As their preferred bee cuisine is not always available, they will also eat grasshoppers, wasps, butterflies and other in-flight prey. The European Bee-eater hunts from a perch, nestled patiently, waiting to swoop down or dart upward for its next meal. Each bird has to consume over 200 bees daily, or its mass equivalent in other insects.


What’s even more interesting than what they consume, is how they consume it

When the Bee-eater does come across its ideal prey, the method in which they prep their meal is very clean-cut. This brightly coloured bird removes each bee’s stinger first, almost surgically, before gulping it down whole. It does so in the most precise order, knocking the bee from side to side on its perching spot, until it becomes entirely severed from the bee’s body. Rather difficult to assume from something so colourful and cute, right? It’s just one more reason this bird is so intriguing to watch.


south african wildlife artist

Habitat and nesting

The European Bee-eater is most commonly found in warm, dry climates, usually a far stretch away from any wet landscape. In Africa, this consists mainly of Savanna or sheltered valleys with plenty trees to perch upon. Most often, you will find their nests in holes in the ground, such as the sides of old water banks or sand quarries. Apart from being timid around people, they are hugely social creatures which live in large flocks rather than in solitude. Although, most European Bee-eaters remain only with one partner until death.

“I am a very keen birdwatcher as well, so I’ve always had a special fascination with birds. I find bringing them to life in my drawings is always very pleasing!”


View more from South African Wildlife artist, Matthew Bell

To view more pieces from this African wildlife artist, please feel free to head on over to the gallery on the home page. Here you can view both original pencil art and prints : https://matthewbellart.co.za/

To get to know the pencil artist a little better, head over to the Q&A page at: https://matthewbellart.co.za/qa-original-wildlife-art/

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