|M. p. argutus, Namibia|
Statius Muller, 1776
The little bee-eater (Merops pusillus) is a near passerine bird species in the bee-eater family, Meropidae. They are residents in much of Sub-Saharan Africa. They should not be confused with the little green bee-eater (Merops orientalis). Migration is limited to seasonal movements depending on rainfall patterns.
Members of this species, like other bee-eaters, are rich and brightly-coloured slender birds. They have green upper parts, yellow throats, black gorgets, and rich brown upper breasts fading to buffish ochre on the belly. Their wings are green and brown, and their beaks are black. They reach a length of 15–17 cm, which makes them the smallest African bee-eater. Sexes are alike. Often silent, their call is a soft "seep."
These are abundant and tame birds, familiar throughout their range. There have been estimated to be between 60-80 million little bee-eaters. They breed in open country with bushes, preferably near water. Just as the name suggests, bee-eaters predominantly eat insects, especially bees, wasps and hornets, who are caught in the air by sorties from an open perch. This species often hunts from low perches, maybe only a metre or less high. Before eating their meal, a bee-eater removes the sting by repeatedly hitting the insect on a hard surface.
Unlike most bee-eaters, these are solitary nesters, making a tunnel in sandy banks, or sometimes in the entrance to an Aardvark den. They lay 4 to 6 spherical white eggs. Both the male and the female take care of the eggs. These birds roost communally, lined up on a tree branch.
Sub-species and plumages
- Kingfishers, Bee-eaters and Rollers by Fry, Fry and Harris, ISBN 0-7136-8028-8
- The Hamlyn photographic guide to birds of the world, foreword by Christopher Perrins; general editor: Andrew Gosler, London : Hamlyn, 1991, ISBN 0-600-57239-0
- Media related to Merops pusillus at Wikimedia Commons
- Little bee-eater - Species text in The Atlas of Southern African Birds.