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Carmine Bee-eater (Merops nubicus & M. nubicoides) Fact Sheet, 2010   Tags: animals, birds, fact sheets, san diego zoo, sdzg, wildlife  

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Carmine Bee-eater (Merops nubicus & M. nubicoides) Fact Sheet, 2010

carmine bee-eater

Image credit: San Diego Zoo Global. All rights reserved.

TaxonomyPhysical Characteristics

Describer (Date): Gelin, 1788

Kingdom: Animalia

Phylum: Chordata

Class: Aves

Order: Coraciiformes

Family: Meripodae

Genus: Merops

Species: Merops nubicus

Subspecies: Merops nubicus
Subspecies: Merops nubicoides

Body Weight: 34-59 g (1.2-2.1 oz)

Body Length: 24-27 cm (9.5-10.5 in)

Plumage: Brilliant pink and blue; black mask; streamers up to 12 cm (4.8 in)

Beak: Black,moderately long, sharp-pointed, downwards curved

Distribution & StatusBehavior & Ecology

Range: Tropical savannas of Africa; two species widely separated in central and southern Africa

Habitat: Tropical, well-watered, warm bushy and woody savannas; river
flood-plains (including farmed areas and open pastures); cliff-faces for nesting

IUCN Status: Least concern, both species

CITES Appendix: Not listed

Population in Wild: Unknown; population estimates for both species, rough estimate in mid-1980's of 5 million in all.

Migration: Complex three-part annual cycle between higher and lower latitudes for feeding, breeding, nesting

Activity Cycle: Diurnal. After dawn, emerge from nest burrows; perch, preen, and fly as clan groups to feed. Return in late afternoon to socialize and preen; enter burrows for night.

Social Groups: Very gregarious. Form huge breeding colonies with up
to 1,000 nests in cliff faces.

Diet: Consume many species of flying insects, especially bees and bee-predators.

Predators: Monitor lizards rob nests. Humans kill birds for their feathers and because they believe these birds pose a threat to bee hives.

Reproduction & DevelopmentSpecies Highlights

Courtship: Aerial pursuits common before nesting time; copulation may
follow gift to female from male

Clutch Size: 2-3 eggs; rarely up to 5

Nest: Usually dug in cliffs; occasionally nest on level ground

Hatchlings: Born blind and naked (altricial) 1-3 days apart; extreme size differences in chicks

Fledgling: 23-30 days; fed for another 6 weeks

Longevity: c. 7 years

Feature This bee-eater often hunts insects by riding on the backs of bustards, storks, heron, cranes, sheep, goats, camels, zebra, wart hogs, and antelope.

Society Press: The San Diego Zoo was the first North American facility to successfully breed White-fronted and Carmine Bee-eaters in captivity.


About This Fact Sheet

© 2010 San Diego Zoo Global. Updated March 2010.

How to cite: Carmine Bee-Eater (Merops nubicus & M. nubicoides) Fact Sheet, 2010. c2010. San Diego (CA): San Diego Zoo Global; [accessed YYYY Mmm dd]. (note: replace YYYY Mmm dd with date accessed, e.g., 2014 Sep 15)

Disclaimer: Although San Diego Zoo Global makes every attempt to provide accurate information, some of the facts provided may become outdated or replaced by new research findings. Questions and comments may be addressed to

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