Coraciiformes TAG

Coraciiformes Taxon Advisory Group -

White-throated Bee-eater (Merops albicollis)
SSP Manager: Not a TAG Recommended Species

General Information:



A monomorphic species of bee-eater showing a white forehead, throat, chin, belly, and a broad superciliary stripe. The crown, lores, gorget, and ear coverts are black. Primary and secondary wing feathers are buffy in color, while the coverts and scapulars are blue-green or gold-green, fading to greyish-blue on the tertials. The underwing coverts are buff in color, while the undertail coverts are pale blue. The bill is black, the eye is red, and the legs and feet are light brown.

The juveniles differ from adult birds primarily by having a pale yellow chin and throat, a black and olive-green head, and a brownish eye color. On newly fledged or very young birds the central tail feathers are shorter than the remainder of the tail feathers.


The breeding range of the white-throated bee-eater is a narrow belt of habitat across Africa and the Red Sea.


During breeding season, the habitat is sparsely wooded sub-desert steppe, arid thorn scrub, and sandy dunes chiefly devoid of vegetation. After the conclusion of breeding season, these bee-eater migrate into the interior of rainforests hawking for food from the canopy. During the course of migration they can be found in essentially any habitat and range up to 3000 meters in elevation, though they primarily remain below 1400 meters and spend the majority of the migration in bushy savanna habitat.




Typical of most bee-eaters, the chief diet item for the white-throated bee-eater is flying insects, especially flying ants. The diet will also include various hymenopterans, beetles, grasshoppers, flies, dragonflies, butterflies, termites, and lacewings. Infrequently, additional items such as ant-lion larvae and skinks may be taken as prey items. In addition to these hunted prey items, the white-throated bee-eater will regularly perch in the lower canopy of an oil-palm tree waiting for the squirrels to discard the thin strips of oil-palm skin from the fruit, which are caught from mid-air and consumed.


Burrows are dug into bare sandy ground in loose-knit colonies numbering up to 250 pairs. The nest tunnels are packed at a density of no more than eight nests per hectare. The pairs are primarily monogamous and nearly all pairs have nest helpers numbering up to five helpers per pair - much higher numbers than in any other bee-eater species. The nest tunnels are straight and measure approximately 1-2 meters in length, declining at an angle of 20-24% resulting in an egg chamber located 40-60cm below the level of the entrance to the tunnel.

Once completed, the nest structure will hold a clutch of 2-5 eggs measuring approximately 22mm by 19mm.These eggs will be incubated for 19 to 21 days prior to the hatching. During their growth, the chicks are fed by both parents, and by all of the nest helpers. After approximatley 32 days have elapsed, the bee-eaters will fledge from the tunnel.

A bee-eater husbandry paper was written by Martin Vince of Riverbanks Zoo titled Bee-eaters: Their Care and Breeding.

Hand-rearing information from San Diego Zoo can be found here.

White-throated Bee-eater Gallery