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European Bee-Eater

About European Bee-Eater

Brilliantly colored with pointed wings, a down curved bill, square tail with long central feathers, and small feet with partly-joined toes. Blue-green with chestnut head and mantle, shading to golden yellow on back. Yellow throat with thick black border blending into a distinct black eye stripe. Blackish-gray leggs and bill; brown eyes.

The European Bee-Eaters nest in large colonies in the spring and summer. Each pair excavates a tunnel, up to 9 feet (2.75m) long, into a bank, sloping down to a round, unlined nest, but before long it is lined with insect remains. This bird lays 4-10 white eggs that are incubated by both parents for 20 days.

This beautifully colored bird is a common sight on warm, sunny riversides in southern Europe, where it often perches on dead trees and overhead wires in small flocks.

At different times, small groups will fly off like swallows, or soar away on rising thermal air currents in search of prey.

This bird really does eats bees as well as wasps and other large airbourne insects, which they snatch out of the air during fast swoops and glides, or by sallying up from their perches. They are immune to bee and wasp stings, but they take care to kill each victim before wiping its tail end against a perch to squeeze out the vemon. This bird is smart enough to know the difference between a stinging bee or wasp yet knows what will not sting. The bird knows what insect it can swallow right away and which one to rub against its perch.

The Bee-Eater nesting colonies are busy, colorful places, with the birds flying in and out of the nesting burrows as they bring food to their young.

If a predator, such as a falcon, appears, the bee-eaters will often gang up on it to drive it away and they have been seen beating on ermines by diving at their herds. They are very beautiful and attract many bird watchers and in some areas this will disturb the colony.