Bee-Eater, a bird of the genus merops, and family meropidw. There are 26 species described, inhabiting most parts of the old world, and migrating from place to place, according to change of season. In the winter they seek the warmest portions of the globe, and the temperate regions in summer, in search of food, which consists exclusively of insects. They commonly perch singly or in small parties on a prominent branch, from which they can see all around them. From this they capture insects on the wing, like the swallow, generally returning to the same perch. At morning and evening they often congregate in considerable numbers. Their flight is graceful and sustained; their cry is loud, consisting of pleasant, whistling notes, continued at morning and evening. They rear their young in horizontal holes in the sandy banks of rivers, or in soft rocks which they can excavate. The entrance is small, opening, at the depth of 3 or 4 feet, into a cavity in which the parent can easily turn. The eggs are from 5 to 7 in number, laid on the bare ground, or on moss or other soft material.
The common bee-eater (merops apiaster, Linn.) inhabits the south of Europe, especially about the Russian rivers Don and Volga, and the northern parts of Africa. It is occasionally seen in England and Sweden. The other species of the genus are found in Africa, Asia, and the Indian archipelago. The common species is about 10 inches long; the bill 1 3/4 inch, black and pointed; eyes red; forehead bluish green, and behind it green; top of the head chestnut, with a green tinge; hind head and upper part of neck chestnut, paler toward the back; from the bill is a black stripe, passing through the eye; the back and scapulars pale yellow, tinged with chestnut and green; rump and upper tail coverts blue-green, with a yellowish tinge; throat yellow; under parts blue-green, palest on the belly; lesser wing coverts dull green; quills mostly sea-green without, and many of the inner rufous - the first very short, the second the largest of all; the tail wedge-shaped, of 12 feathers, the shafts brown above and whitish beneath, the two middle ones sea-green, shaded with rufous, and the longest by nearly an inch; claws black. In Egypt this species is eaten as food. The eggs are white.
It receives its name from the insect which is its favorite food though it feeds on most of the winged insects, which it takes as it flies. - One of the most beautiful of the African genera is the bee wolf (melittotheres Nubicus), a bird of the most brilliant plumage. Its back is of a deep red color, its under side rose pink. The head, throat, and portions of the tail are of a bluish green; while a black stripe runs from the corner of the beak to the ear. The tips of some of the longest feathers are also black. The eyes are red, the feet brown, and the beak black. The bird is generally about 13 inches in length, and its breadth of wing is about 12 inches. It inhabits eastern Africa.
Bee-Eater (Merops apiaster).
Bee Wolf (Mdittotheres Nubicus).