Green Bee-eater: Of Birds And Bees

Have you ever seen a fairy flying?



I have seen more than one and this is what they look like…



Perched on a twig…

In flight, my fairy is green with brown wings and has long tail streamers. She wears a black eye mask and her eyes are fiery red. A black band across her neck is clearly visible. Her green head turns golden brown with age. Green bee-eaters are among the smallest of the Bee-eater family.



Grasshopper meal…

Here is what I have observed:

This “fairy” comes with a sanction to kill. As her name suggests, she kills bees but they are not the only ones. Grasshoppers, crickets, dragonflies, and moths all make up her diet. The Bee-eater selects a favorite perch, usually a wire or a twig on a tree, from which, she suddenly flies gracefully and swiftly and is back in a jiffy with a bee in her beak.


Tossing the bee…

Back on her perch, she tosses the bee up in the air several times so as to position it such, that the bee is held by its tail end. Then, she gives the bee a few whacks against its perch to kill it. She, then, tosses it up again to catch it by its mid belly and a gives it a few more whacks to remove the sting. And then, she swallows the bee whole.


Near their favorite habitat…

Bee-eaters are spring migrants in the Delhi region, arriving at the beginning of March and leaving before October, breeding there. While down south, they are residents but in lesser numbers.


Their nests are generally a mud hole along fields or on sandy banks and even on gravel/mud cliffs. I have seen it nest in the soft soil around freshly dug up building foundations and freshly ploughed fields – and, to me, that is her big threat. Why? Because such habitats remain disturbed or get destroyed quickly. No one really bothers about the birds’ presence there.


Waiting patiently for food…

The other big threat is related to her diet. Humans perceive bees as a threat and have their hives removed or sprayed with lethal insecticides. At other times, bees are exploited for their honey in very cruel fashion. Bees are very hard working. They pollinate flowers – small flowers, big flowers, in gardens, in the wild, in trees, bushes, farms or on the ground. Without bees, there will be fewer fruits, seeds and no honey for us. Also, no favorite food for our fairy.


Bee pollinating…note the pollen sac on its leg…





  • Congratulations! A wonderful share about these gorgeous birds. I have long wondered how such modest-sized birds are able to swallow bees and dragonflies and such. How do they avoid a painful bite? Once, a boy in Brooklyn, NY, USA, I foolishly decided to see if I was fast enough to grab large darner, as it flew by me. I was a fast, athletic boy, and yes, I grabbed one out of mid-air . . . . Aagh!!! It delivered a bite so painful, I have never forgotten it! The Bee-eaters are smarter than I was that day.

    • You’re right. Bee-eaters really are smart and swift too.
      I really had no idea that dragonflies could bite or sting! Thanks for sharing your experience.

  • Wonderful captures, what beauties!

  • Great post – and ‘bee-tossing’ photo in particular! RH

  • I love your photos, Aditya. They do look like fairies-such beautiful colors!

  • Thank you for visiting and for your wonderful words.

  • Wonderfully informative post!! And… Beautiful shots! I first saw Bee-eaters in Eilat, israel and was so stuck by their beauty and their behavior. Thanks for sharing!

    • I couldn’t agree more. They are beautiful and very agile too! Always nice to see them in action. Did you happen to see the European Bee-eater?
      Thank you for visiting.

      • I don’t think I’ve seen the European Bee-eater. I believe the ones we saw near Eilat were called Little Green Bee-eaters.I never realized there are SO many!

        • Thank you so much.

          There are indeed so many subspecies of this bird even though they go by the same name. We have another Green Bee-eater with a chestnut head. 🙂

  • This is truly an amazing and beautiful post Aditya, you have captured some very special pics here. I had review it, we love bee eaters, and your green variety is so beautifully portrayed. Thanks for an excellent post.

    • Thank you so much. Coming from you, it’s a huge compliment. 🙂
      I always love watching Bee-eaters. They are so swift that sometimes, they can fly past a person and back without making him realize what just happened. Thanks once again.

  • Adi congrats for the blog it is very good and informative. I wish one could see these in real acti0n. Real good research Thanks and keep exploring. Col R P.

  • Striking photos — especially the first one with the four birds sitting together. Beautiful little birds.

    • There are actually five of them! But you have to count the tails for that.🙂 One of them is not looking backwards. Thanks for stopping by.

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