Last updated on April 21, 2014 at 1:20 EDT

Southern Carmine Bee-eater

The Southern Carmine Bee-eater (Merops nubicoides), formerly known as Carmine Bee-eater, is a species of bird found across sub-equatorial Africa, extending from Zululand and Namibia to Gabon, eastern Zaire and Kenya. Its preferred habitat includes low-altitude river valleys and floodplains, usually found on vertical banks suitable for tunneling. It may also burrow in the level surface of small salt islands. This bird is migratory and spends the breeding season in Zimbabwe, summer months in South Africa, and then moving around equatorial Africa between March and August.

This bee-eater, like others, is richly colored. It is mainly purplish-red (carmine) in color, with a blue crown and undertail coverts.

The diet of the Southern Carmine Bee-eater consists of bees and other insects. Its hunting strategy involves hawking (attacking like a hawk) flying insects from a perch. Perches may include branches of vegetation or even the backs of large animals, such as the Kori Bustard. It is attracted to wildfires because of the flushed insects, and are often seen circling high in the air.

This is a highly sociable species, gathering in large flocks, in or out of breeding season. They roost communally in trees or reed beds, and disperse widely during the day. Nesting is at the end of a long burrow in an earthen bank, where the lay from 2-5 eggs.

Southern Carmine Bee-eater