|M. h. hirundineus
Tswalu Kalahari Reserve, South Africa
|M. h. chrysolaimus
The swallow-tailed bee-eater (Merops hirundineus) is a near passerine bird in the bee-eater family Meropidae. It breeds in savannah woodlands of sub-Saharan Africa. It is partially migratory, moving in response to rainfall patterns.
This species, like other bee-eaters, is a richly coloured, slender bird. Its colours and readily visible forked tail make this species unmistakable. It is mainly green with a yellow throat, blue gorget and black eye stripe and beak. It can reach a length of 20–22 cm, including the long forked green or blue feathers. Sexes are alike.
This is a species which prefers somewhat more wooded country than most bee-eaters. This attractive bird is readily approached. Just as the name suggests, bee-eaters predominantly eat insects, especially bees, wasps and hornets, which are caught in the air by sorties from an open perch. Swallowtail has a preference for honeybees.
These bee-eaters are nesting as pairs or in very small colonies in sandy banks, or similar flat ground. They make a relatively long tunnel in which the 2 to 4 spherical, white eggs are laid. These birds also feed and roost communally.
- Swallow-tailed bee-eater - Species text in The Atlas of Southern African Birds.