Note:  Do not rely on this information. It is very old.


Bee-eater, any bird of the genus Merops, with twenty-one species, the type of the family Meropidae, which is found all over the Ethiopian and Oriental, and penetrating into the Palsearctic and Australian regions. The name is often extended to the whole family, but is popularly confined to the common Bee-eater (M. apiaster), common on the shores of the Mediterranean, and occasionally straying to England. In winter it migrates to South Africa, where it incubates a second time. In size the adult male is rather less than a starling; the top of the head is rich chestnut-brown, which extends over the neck, back, and wing coverts, and changes to light reddish-yellow on the rump; the primaries and secondaries are bright blue-green tipped with black, the tertiaries are green; upper tail coverts blue-green tipped with black, tail green tinted with a darker hue; chin and throat reddish yellow, round the latter a deep blue-black band; under surface of the body bluish-green, of wings and tails greyish-brown. In the female the hue of the throat is paler, and a reddish tinge runs through the body and wings. They nest in river banks or in holes or tunnels in the ground, and prey upon bees, wasps, and other insects. Large numbers of these beautiful birds are annually shot to provide plumes for ladies' bonnets and hats, and in one spring 700 were killed at Tangiers, and the skins consigned to a London dealer.