|RAINBOW BEE-EATER (Merops ornatus)
This medium-sized bird has a long, thin bill, slightly curved down, and perfect for catching bees, wasps and flies. Its bill length ensures that it can’t get stung while it finds someplace to scrape the bee’s stinger off, before it gets eaten. Bees and wasps are high energy foods and a great choice of prey – if you have a strategy for not being stung in the process!
Rainbow Bee-Eaters are found in Australia, New Guinea, and Eastern Indonesia. They make their homes in various locations, from open woodlands to shrublands to cleared areas.
These beautiful birds make strange nests. They dig tunnels in sandy soil, line them with grasses and nest at the far end. Here, the female will lay 2-8 eggs and both parents will incubate them and care for the nestlings, sometimes with the help of other Bee-Eaters. Those birds living in southern extremes of their habitat fly north to nest, sometimes over long distances. Often, they flock in numbers of hundreds or thousands. Males and females look similar, although males may have longer tail feathers.
To catch prey, they wait on their perch until something yummy flies past, then quickly pursue it, snatching it in the air with their strong bills. They are fast fliers and can turn quickly in mid-air. Although they have been shown to be immune to bee toxins, they still prefer to get rid of the stinger before they swallow it. They will also sometimes feed on worms, spiders and other arthropods. And, occasionally they plunge their bills into the surface of ponds or streams to catch small fish and tadpoles.Cane Toads are their primary predator – they feed on Bee-Eater eggs and nestlings (among other things). Dingos and foxes also feed on eggs and young. As adults, other than by human hunting, there are few natural predators of the Rainbow Bee-Eater.