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Nyctyornis athertoni.jpg
Blue-bearded bee-eater
Scientific classification

Jardine & Selby, 1830

N. amictus
N. athertoni

Nyctyornis is a genus of the bee-eaters, near passerine birds in the family Meropidae. There are just two members of this group, which occur in tropical south and southeastern Asia.[1]

Image Scientific name Common Name Distribution
Nyctyornis amictus - Kaeng Krachan.jpg Nyctyornis amictus Red-bearded bee-eater South-east Asia
Nyctyornis athertoni - Khao Yai.jpg Nyctyornis athertoni Blue-bearded bee-eater Indian subcontinent and parts of Southeast Asia

The genus Nyctyornis was introduced by the naturalists William Jardine and Prideaux John Selby in 1830.[2][3] The name comes from the Ancient Greek nukt meaning nocturnal or night and ornis meaning bird.[4] A molecular phylogenetic study published in 2007 showed that the genus is basal and forms a sister group to the remaining members of the bee-eater family.[5]

Like other bee-eaters, Nyctyornis species are colourful birds with long tails, long downturned bills and pointed wings. They are large bee-eaters (blue-bearded is the largest of all bee-eaters),[6] predominantly green, with a face colour as indicated by the species' name. This colour extends on to the slightly hanging throat feathers to form the "beard".[7]

The two Nyctyornis species are the only bee-eaters that lack an eye-stripe and that have bi-coloured beaks.[5] Their calls also differ from those of other bee-eaters and are somewhat similar to the noises made by rollers.[8] Their size and more rounded wings give a heavier flapping flight that is less graceful than that of members of the genus Merops.[8]

In common with other bee-eaters, they predominantly eat insects, especially bees, wasps and hornets, which are caught in the air, but they have a rather different strategy. They hunt alone or in pairs, rather than in groups, and sit motionless for long periods before pursuing their prey.[8] The blue-bearded bee-eater will also clamber in foliage for insects, and bees are sometimes attracted by the bright blue beard of a perched bird, presumably mistaking it for a flower.[9] They nest in burrows tunneled into the side of sandy banks, but do not form colonies.[10]


  1. ^ Gill, Frank; Donsker, David, eds. (2016). "Todies, motmots, bee-eaters, hoopoes, wood hoopoes & hornbills". World Bird List Version 6.4. International Ornithologists' Union. Retrieved 23 October 2016.
  2. ^ Peters, James Lee, ed. (1945). Check-list of Birds of the World. Volume 5. Cambridge, Massachusetts: Harvard University Press. p. 238.
  3. ^ Jardine, William; Selby, Prideaux John (1830). Illustrations of Ornithology. Volume 2. Edinburgh: W.H. Lizars. Addenda.
  4. ^ Jobling, James A. (2010). The Helm Dictionary of Scientific Bird Names. London: Christopher Helm. p. 277. ISBN 978-1-4081-2501-4.
  5. ^ a b Marks, B.D.; Weckstein, J.D.; Moyle, R.G. (2007). "Molecular phylogenetics of the bee-eaters (Aves: Meropidae) based on nuclear and mitochondrial DNA sequence data". Molecular Phylogenetics and Evolution. 45 (1): 23–32. doi:10.1016/j.ympev.2007.07.004. PMID 17716922.
  6. ^ Fry, Fry & Harris 1992, p. 242.
  7. ^ Fry, Fry & Harris 1992, pp. 241-244.
  8. ^ a b c Fry, C. Hillary. "Family Meropidae: Bee-eaters". In del Hoyo, J.; Elliott, A.; Sargatal, J.; Christie, D.A.; de Juana, E. Handbook of the Birds of the World Alive. Lynx Edicions. Retrieved 1 October 2016.(subscription required)
  9. ^ Fry, Fry & Harris 1992, p. 243.
  10. ^ Fry, Fry & Harris 1992, pp. 242, 244.


  • Fry, C. Hilary; Fry, Kathie; Harris, Alan (1992). Kingfishers, Bee-eaters, and Rollers. London: Christopher Helm. ISBN 978-0-7136-8028-7.