WCS/Bronx Zoo

Bronx, NY

Contact person:

Marcia Arland

Assistant Collection Manager/Ornithology

(718) 220-5070

[email protected]



1.  Please list sexes and species of bee-eaters currently held at your institution.

            8.6 White-throated

            3.6 Carmine

            0.1 Southern Carmine


2.  Note method and company used to sex your birds.

Carmines: DNA feather-sexed by University Diagnostics Limited (UDL), London.

White-throateds: DNA feather-sexed by Avian Biotech International, Tallahassee, FL.


3. Describe how your birds are banded and discuss any band problems you have had.

Birds are banded with cable ties and chenille streamers.  The streamers are made by making a loop around the cable tie and then sewed together with suture material and glued.  The streamer is free moving around the cable tie, and cut to about 1” in length for the Carmines and about ˝” in length for the White-throateds.  They work well for the Carmines but the cable ties are a bit big for the White-throateds.  We found most color bands not visible on the short legs of bee-eaters, but the streamers are visible, often with the naked eye, though binoculars are helpful, esp. with the White-throateds.  Color choice is important also.  For more information please contact us.


4.  Please describe your bee-eater diet, including use of beehives, other live food, coloring agents offered.

Birds are fed three times per day a diet consisting of dog kibble, Softbill Faire, mealworms, giant mealworms, waxworms, and crickets.  The pans are sprayed with a Betatine/water mixture to add carotenoids for feather color in the Carmines.  We will be adding live bees to the diet this year.


5.  Please describe your bee-eater exhibits and holding spaces – dimensions, inside or outside exhibit, nesting areas provided, plantings, water areas, species exhibited together, etc.

Our main bee-eater exhibit is circular in shape with a 30’diameter, about 20’high; inside exhibit with sand substrate, fake grasses, natural perching, with a stream running along the front and side of the exhibit below the nest bank.  We currently exhibit 9Carmines and 10 White-throateds in this exhibit.  The birds have access to three nesting areas: (1) a fabricated bank about 15’ high with several burrows of PVC pipe filled with sand/soil mix, the top of which is also sand/soil mix; (2) a mound of sand/soil about 5’ long and 3’ high and 4’ deep on the floor of the exhibit; and (3) a 4’ wide x 4’ deep x 10’ high box filled with sand/soil with 3” wooden slats about every 4” on the front to hold the mix in (this is fashioned after San Diego’s design).  Both species have dug on top of the fabricated bank and in the PVC holes, though we have had no successful clutches there yet.  At present, a pair of White-throateds is nesting in the San Diego style nest area.


6.  Please describe any reproductive activity observed and time of year of occurrence.

            Carmines:  courtship feeding, beak rubbing in mate’s breast feathers, copulations.

White-throateds:  courtship feeding, wing flashing, copulations, burrow digging, and we assume egg laying and incubation.  We await a hatch as of 1/22/01.  Carmines in the past nested in spring and summer.  We are seeing sexual activity now in January in both species, since our light cycle in the building has been extended to about 14hrs/day due a special holiday event.


7.   Describe parent-rearing behaviors and procedures, and hand-rearing procedures used.


8.  Have you seen any aggressive behaviors in your birds and in what context?  Any other interesting social behaviors observed?

We have never seen serious aggression with the Carmines.  The White-throateds so far seem less colonial in breeding habits.  We have a dominant pair, which actively keeps the other White-throateds away from their preferred nest area.  The chasing was especially intense while the pair was excavating and the female was laying.  It seemed to subside once she started incubating.  The male was often seen chasing other females until exhausted and copulating with them when his mate was working on the nest burrow.  We never see aggression from the W-T towards the Carmines or visa-versa.


9.  Discuss any acclimation and/or medical problems you have had with your bee-eaters.

We have had Carmine Bee-eaters arrive from federal quarantine with vitamin A deficiencies – this presents as white lesions visible inside the mouth, around the nares and eyes; usually responds well to balanced diet and vitamin A injection.  Some birds need bill trims semi-annually.  At times during molt, we have seen birds down and weak, light in weight.  They are usually pulled off exhibit and put in holding until molt complete.


10.  Please add anything else you consider pertinent to bee-eater husbandry.