Rainbow Bee-Eater

SCIENTIFIC NAME: Merops ornatus

Rainbow Bee-Eater

The Rainbow Bee-Eater is a brilliantly colored bee-eater with yellow face with black mask, green and blue underparts, black tail streamers.

It measures about 9.1 - 11 inches in length, including the elongated tail feathers and weighs about 20 - 33 grams.

Their upper back and wings are green in color, and their lower back and under-tail coverts are bright blue. Undersides of the wings and primary flight feathers are rufous to copper with green edges and tipped with black, and their tail is black to deep violet.

They have two central tail feathers which are longer than the other tail feathers, and are longer in the males than in the females.

The crown of their head, stomach and breast, and throat are pale yellow-orange in color, and they have a black crescent- shaped gorget and a black stripe, edged with blue, extending through their bright r ed eye. They have small, syndactylous feet.

Juveniles have a greener crown, but lack throat bands and tail streamers.

They make a series of loud, melodious "pir-r-r" calls, characterized by rapid vibrating and high pitch, usually in flight. A softer, slower call is exchanged between perching birds.

Mostly eat flying insects, but, as their name implies, they have a real taste for bees.

Found in open woodlands, beaches, dunes, cliffs, mangroves, and farmlands, and they often visit parks and private gardens.

Summer: Most of southern Australia, excluding Tasmania.

Winter: Northern Australia, New Guinea, and some of the southern islands of Indonesia.

A vagrant has been recorded on Miyako Island, Japan.

They are ground nesting birds, like all bee-eaters. They dig their burrow by balancing on their wings and feet, and dig with their bill, then pushing loose soil backwards with their feet while balancing on their bill.

The female can dig about 3 inches down every day. The nest tunnel is very narrow, and the birds' bodies press so tightly against the tunnel walls that when the birds enter and exit their movement acts like a piston, pumping in fresh air and pushing out stale air.

They have also been known to share their nest tunnels with other bee-eaters and sometimes even other species of birds.

The female lays between 3 and 7 rounded, translucent white eggs, which are incubated for about 21 - 24 days until hatching.


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