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Bee-eaters: White-fronted Bee-eater

Identify and index birds in Southern Africa

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Unread postby Jazil » Tue Oct 25, 2005 10:06 pm

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I believe that this is a White fronted Bee-eater.
Why would he be so scruffy? Because he is young?
Do they migrate too?
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Unread postby Snoobab » Wed Oct 26, 2005 8:49 am

They don't migrate although there might be some altitudinal movement.
He does look a bit scruffy but not in bad shape, he might have just fluffed out his feathers prior to the photo.

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Unread postby Bush Baptist » Thu Oct 27, 2005 10:07 pm

Have seen them in at least half a dozen locations, notably the low bridge over the Biyamiti river to the east of the camp. The bank is pock marked with nests that I believe carmines also use. Also from the Mantambeni hide north of Letaba.
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Unread postby wildtuinman » Fri Oct 28, 2005 8:51 am

arks wrote:
Bush Baptist wrote:Have seen them in at least half a dozen locations, notably the low bridge over the Biyamiti river to the east of the camp. The bank is pock marked with nests that I believe carmines also use. Also from the Mantambeni hide north of Letaba.


Does anyone know if the carmines will still be around in early May?


They should have left long ago by May.
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Unread postby Katja » Thu Nov 17, 2005 11:25 am

Near Lower Sabie in May:

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Unread postby Johann » Thu Nov 17, 2005 4:10 pm

Frequent visitor at our Riverview bungalow at Olifants in June 2005.
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Saw this one at Balule bridge in Oct 2005. He took a swipe at my camera lens seconds after this pic. :D
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Unread postby bert » Sat Nov 19, 2005 8:08 pm

We saw this one the one morning we decided not to rush
From the riverviewtent Lower Sabie. On this branch the insects where killed and eaten
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Unread postby acekam » Sat Nov 19, 2005 11:38 pm

Nice pics everyone. Can't offer any pics, but would like to say that I have found the S91/S92 Olifants River road to be the most reliable for sighting these little beauties.
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Bee-eaters: White-fronted Bee-eater

Unread postby cybeR@NGER » Sun Apr 16, 2006 3:38 pm

White-fronted Bee-eater (Merops bullockoides)

Other Names
Afrikaans: Rooikeelbyvreter
Dutch: Witkapbijeneter
French: Guêpier à front blanc
German: Weißstirnspint, Weißstirn-Bienenfresser
Portuguese: Abelharuco de testa branca

Scientific Classification:
Order: Coraciiformes
Family: Meropidae
Genus: Merops

Identification: Bee-eaters are brightly coloured, specialized aerial feeders, that are among our most beautiful birds. They have quite sharply tapered wings and fly with much twisting and turning in pursuit of prey.
The White-fronted Bee-eater, so named for its white forehead and chin, is 22-24 cm long. Sexes are alike.
Adult: Forehead and broad malar strip white, forecrown buffy white; hind crown and hind neck bronzy buff. With wear, forehead feathers become pointed and top of head looks scruffy. Lores and ear coverts black, forming mask. Chin white and throat bright red. Remaining upper parts dark blue-green. Upper tail coverts ultramarine blue, square-ended tail grass green. Wings are mainly grass green. Inner primaries and secondaries have powder-blue edges, feathers tipped black, forming broad, dark trailing edge to wing. Underwing coverts buff. Breast and belly dark buff. Thighs, rear flanks, vent, rump and undertail coverts ultramarine blue. Undertail black. The narrow and decurved bill is black. Eyes are brown and legs and feet dark grey.
Juvenile: Same as adult, but red and blue parts are paler and the crown is green.

Voice: These birds are quite vocal. Most common call is a muffled, nasal, gaaaa or gaaauuu; sometimes a faintly disyllabic, waaru or slightly rolled, krrrt or karara. Alarm call a sharp waaark. Also a squeaky weeeep, zeeep, krikikiri, and other 'creaking' noises.

Distribution:From southern Gabon to south-western Uganda. In southern Africa, largely restricted to north and east. In Namibia, restricted to far north; common in Caprivi. In Botswana, locally common in Okavango Delta and along Chobe River. Widespread throughout Zimbabwe and Swaziland. In South Africa, common only in lowveld woodland of NW and Limpopo Provinces, Mpumalanga and Kwazulu-Natal. Isolated populations in Free State/N. Cape along the Vaal, Modder, Riet and Vet rivers. Absent from arid and semi-arid Namib, Kalahari and Karoo, and from Lesotho highlands and Eastern Cape.

Habitat: Typically associated with vertical sandy or lateritic riverbanks and watercourses, sometimes dry watercourses, in woodlands, wooded grasslands and bushy pastures. Also at eroded gullies, perennial rivers and seasonal streams with wooded banks. Favours broad-leaved and mixed woodlands, most frequently in Mopane Colophospermum mopane. In Free State and Northern Cape, riparian woodland in slightly wooded grassland. Sometimes associated with Eucalyptus, which attracts bees.

General Habits: These birds are strongly gregarious forming complex social organisations: a breeding unit or 'family', consisting of 1 pair and 1-5 helpers, establishes close ties with 2-5 other 'families' within the colony and occasionally from other colonies, making a clan. Clan vigorously defends feeding territory against other clans.
Aerial pursuits are common, almost always in pairs or groups, often perched shoulder to shoulder on twigs, sticks, branges or in riparian vegetation overhanging rivers. Between bouts of foraging, much time is spent sunbathing, generally socially, either facing away from the sun and erecting mantle feathers in a ruff, or sitting in 'broken-necked' posture under midday sun, head turned aside, bill open, neck feathers ruffled and eye facing sun closed. Occasionally sunbathes on ground, or clings to cliff with fanned tail supporting body like a woodpecker. Sunbathing is interrupted with bouts of preening, scratching and stretching. Often bathes, splashing momentarily, head-first, into water, then preening vigorously.

Foraging & Food: Forages solitarily from perches, but maintains vocal contact with clan members. Mostly fast pursuits of aerial insects and glides with brief, hovering pause to snap up insect from low herbage. Occasionally scoops insects off water surface, or hawks prey in continuous flight, high in air, or attempts slow glides to seize prey from ground without alighting. Insects are carried back to the perch to be beaten. Tail end of stinging bee or wasp is rubbed against perch until sting and venom are discharged. Insect then tossed into mouth and swallowed. Once an insect lands the bee-eater ignores it, even if in plain sight. Bee-eaters are just programmed to catch things on the wing.
Diet is exclusively flying insects, comprising over 90% Hymenoptera (ants, bees and wasps), Honeybees, on average, forming one third of that. Also beetles, flies, dragonflies, butterflies and grasshoppers.

Breeding: Monogamous and colonial nester. Facultative cooperative breeder with one or more helpers (usually members of previous seasons' brood, sometimes experienced breeders) at most nests.
Nest: Both sexes, and sometimes helpers, excavate a burrow by digging with bill, removing loosened material with bicycling action of feet. Burrows often started but not completed, sometimes resulting in 50 or more holes/m² of riverbank.
Laying occurs in early summer, possibly to prevent nest-flooding by heavy rains later in the season.

Status: Common resident.

Conservation: Not threatened. Range has expanded westward along rivers and associated irrigation schemes into Free State and N Cape, where historical absent. May have benefited from man's activities (increased nesting habitat) in the form of earthworks, sand quarries and erosion gullies. Some colonies are very sensitive to human interference, and will abandon nests and desert colony if disturbed.
-----------------------------
Source: Roberts Birds of Southern Africa VII
Last edited by cybeR@NGER on Fri May 23, 2008 8:19 pm, edited 1 time in total.
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Unread postby Freda » Sun Apr 16, 2006 4:44 pm

Very interesting, thanks CR :D
I think you have just explained two of my mystery pics for me 8)
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Sorry about the quality :cry:

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Unread postby jaapvandijk » Mon Apr 17, 2006 8:38 pm

just wanna share an observation I made once in august, up north in Kruger. at Pafuri picknickplace.

whyl I was sitting there and overlooking the Levuvhu, I saw a white-fronted bee-eater (wfbe) sitting in a tree, just above my head.
after a while a 2nd wfbe took place in the tree, just next to the 1st wfbe. it carried an insect and gave it to the 1st wfbe.
After that he flew back to a branch, close to the river. once in a while he would fly off and catch an insect. after eating a few insects himself, he returned with an insect for the wfbe above my head.
this repeated a few times, till he came back to bring an other insect.
now he gave the insect to the wfbe above my head. after that he maited with her. after maiting with her, he returned to his post to catch some more insects.
this whole ...thing continued for a few times.
Unfortunately there was not enoufgh time to see the end of the story. but I think they lived happy ever after.

Has anneyone seen this behaviour as well? Is this common for wfbe??
Well cybeR@NGER, you might have an answer?!?!?
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Unread postby cybeR@NGER » Mon Apr 17, 2006 10:15 pm

Hi, jaapvandijk,

Well, here's what I found concerning courtship behaviour of the White-fronted Bee-eater (wfbe):

The male wfbe guards the female wfbe by keeping close to her most of the time. Pairs copulate frequently every day before and during egg-laying. However at unguarded moments the female wfbe may be chased by foreign male wfbes during breeding season; some cases end in (unforced) copulation. Occasionally, breeding female copulates with a helper. Pair greets noisily with both birds streching heads up and erecting crown feathers, while fanning and vibrating tails.
Courtship involves inconspicuous head-bobbing display, and more conspicuous courtship-feeding of the female wfbe by the breeding male wfbe and helpers. Copulation often follows allofeeding (feeding of one bird by another).

Hope this answers your question :)

P.S. I am absolutely sure that 'your' birds lived happily ever after. 8)
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White fronted bee-eaters

Unread postby madach » Thu Apr 20, 2006 6:46 pm

I know that White fronted bee-eaters nest in a riverbank somewhere in the South of Kruger but I can't remember where it is. I'd like to go there during my trip in May but I have limited time in the South so I'd rather not have to look for it. Can anybody refresh my memory...

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Unread postby Katja » Thu Apr 20, 2006 10:21 pm

Some years ago I saw them from the low water bridge that crosses the Biyamiti on the S25. (I think it was there. :?)

EDIT: It could also have been the Bume crossing on the S25. Image It's a wide river bed with a steep road.
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Unread postby Elsa » Fri Apr 21, 2006 12:50 pm

Yes, on the S25, low level bridge crossing the Biyamiti is exactly where we usually see them, wonderful sight and a great place to photograph them.
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