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Carmine Bee-eaters (Merops nubicus & M. nubicoides) Fact Sheet: Physical Characteristics

Physical Characteristics

Body measurements

Attribute Northern, M. nubicus Southern, M. nubicoides
Weight 34-59 g (1.2-2.1 oz) 44.5-66 g (1.60-2.3 oz)
Length 24-27 cm (9.5-11 in) 24-27 cm (9.5-11 in)
Tail streamer length Up to 9.5 cm (3.7 in) Up to 12 cm (4.7 in)


Sources: del Hoyo et al. (2018), Fry et al. (2018)

General Appearance

Body shape and appearance

  • Largest species of Bee-eater
    • Body weight up to 59 g (2 oz)
  • Legs and feet
    • Black/brown
  • Wings

    • Long and pointed
  • Tail
    • Long streamers (central tail feathers)
    • Undertail-coverts pale blue
  • Rump
    • Pale blue

Facial characteristics

  • Dark mask of feathers
  • Eyes
    • Red
  • Beak (bill)
    • Black

Adult plumage

  • Overall bright pink appearance (Fry 1984)
    • Rose-carmine color rare among birds
  • Crown
    • Greenish-blue
  • Throat and chin color varies according to species
    • Southern Carmine Bee-eater with a vivid pink throat
    • Northern Carmine Bee-eater with a greenish-blue throat

Immature plumage

  • Pink brown feathers
  • Lack tail streamers

Sexual Dimorphism

Sexes alike

Northern Carmine Bee-eater

northern carmine bee-eater perched

Northern Carmine Bee-eater (Merops nubicus) perched.

Photographed on the road between the Sabaki River mouth and Gongoni, Kenya.

Image credit: © Steve Garvie from Flickr. Some rights reserved.

Southern Carmine Bee-eater

southern carmine bee-eater in flight

Southern Carmine Bee-eater (Merops nubicoides) in Western Zambia.

Image credit: © Ian White from Flickr. Some rights reserved.

Page Citations

Fry (1984)
Fry (2001)

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