Blue-cheeked Bee-eater


Blue-cheeked bee-eater differs markedly from European bee eater in its predominantly bright green plumage and rufous-chesnut throat, with yellow only on chin. Elongated central tail feathers of adult are longer, and has longer, finer black bill, giving it a longer, more streamlined look than European. Narrower black face mask bordered above and below by pale bands frequently whitish-looking than bluish, gives it distinctive facial expression, even at a distance when colours are hard to see. In flight from below, look quite dark-throated, and underwings much paler and obviously coppery overall with narrower, less obvious dark trailing edge. Adult winter is slightly duller overall. Juvenile is markedly duller and lacks elongated central tail feathers. Female are like male but its tail feathers are average shorter. Blue-cheeked bee-eater feeds by making long pursuit flights from perch, and even from ground. It returns to perch to knock prey and, if is a hymenoptera, to rub its tail. Migratory, it’s moving in small or large flocks mainly by day, passing on broad front often at considerable height. They vacate breeding grounds in August. On long sea crossing, they have to migrate by night. It’s a long distance migrant. These bee-eaters are gregarious, nesting colonially in sandy banks. They feed and roost communally.


Blue-cheeked bee-eater breeds mainly in sand deserts near water fringed with bushes and acacia or tamarisks. It lives in open cultivation, with some trees and bushes, or dry uncultivated country with scattered bushes. Almost always found in close association with water in form of rivers, irrigation canals, lakes or marshes. It winters in open woodland and grassland.

Other details

Merops persicus has an extensive global breeding distribution, which just extends into south-east Europe. Its European breeding population is small (as few as 3,100 pairs), but was stable between 1970-1990. Despite some declines during 1990-2000, key populations in Russia and Azerbaijan increased, and the species increased overall. Although the size of the European population could render it susceptible to the risks affecting small populations, it is marginal to a much larger non-European population.


Blue-cheeked bee-eaters are insectivorous, eating mainly flying insects. They can eat dangerous insects such as bees, wasps and hornets which are rendered harmless before being eaten: the tail (and sting) of the insects is rubbed against the perch to express the venom and often the sting itself.


This species has a large range, with an estimated global Extent of Occurrence of 1,000,000-10,000,000 km². The global population size has not been quantified, but it is believed to be large as the species is described as ‘common’ in at least parts of its range. Global population trends have not been quantified, but the species is not believed to approach the thresholds for the population decline criterion of the IUCN Red List (i.e. declining more than 30% in ten years or three generations). For these reasons, the species is evaluated as Least Concern.


Blue-cheeked bee-eater nest solitary or in loose colonies in sandy banks, on canal or ditch, low cliff and sandy mud plain. They make a burrow 1 to 3 mter long, depending of softness of soil, nearly straight, in cliff horizontal and in level-declining 15/20 degrees. Female lays 4 to 8 white eggs. Incubation lasts 23 to 26 days. Both parents care the young.


Mainly migratory. Two palearctic races both winter in Africa. In north-west Africa (M. p. chrysocercus), part of population makes northward post-breeding movement in August-September (probably from late July), Morocco to Tunisia, though rarely reaches Mediterranean coast; followed by southward migration in October. Winters in West Africa from Sénégambia, Guinea-Bissau, and Sierra Leone east to Nigeria. Egyptian and Middle East population (M. p. persicus) mainly migratory; winters in eastern half of Africa from Ethiopia and eastern Sudan to South Africa.


Rare sighting of Blue-cheeked Bee-eaters on Sibuya Game Reserve, Eastern Cape, South Africa

Sibuya Game Reserve

If you are planning an African Safari, or want to stay at a Game Reserve in South Africa, or a Game Reserve near the Garden Route, or are looking for that perfect Game Reserve Wedding Venue, then why not visit Sibuya for that ultimate African Bush Experience! Sibuya is a Malaria Free Game Reserve

Visit Sibuya’s Forest CampRiver Camp or Bush Lodge for the ultimate African Safari adventure.

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