7 Curious Aspects of the Blue-Headed Bee-Eater

The blue-headed bee-eater waits on tree branches to hunt its next prey. Let's get to know it a little better.
7 Curious Aspects of the Blue-Headed Bee-Eater
Sara González Juárez

Written and verified by the psychologist Sara González Juárez.

Last update: 19 January, 2023

These Coraciiformes are known for displaying their bright colors in dull places. We’re talking about the Meropidae family, and, specifically, the blue-headed bee-eater. The electric blue color of its head and chest makes it unmistakable to the eyes of anyone who knows anything about birds.

So, to expand your knowledge about these beautiful animals a little more, we’re bringing you a complete fact sheet on the biology of the blue-headed bee-eater. Don’t miss anything, because this is a fascinating, beautiful animal with a song that’s hard to ignore. Let’s get going!

All about the blue-headed bee-eater

1. Its taxonomy and the origin of its scientific name

The blue-headed bee-eater goes by the scientific name of Merops muelleri.  This last term, muelleri, was given in honor of its discoverer, Johann Wilhelm von Müller, a German ornithologist who embarked on an expedition to Africa to find new species in the 19th century.

This bird belongs to the Coraciformes order and the Meropidae family. The latter is where the birds popularly known as bee-eaters are grouped, birds specialized in eating flying insects, especially bees (hence the name).

A blue-headed bee-eater.
Merops muelleri.

2. They inhabit rainforests

Central Africa is where you’ll find this bee-eater. It’s found in a wide region that includes Guinea, Sierra Leone, Liberia, Ivory Coast, Ghana, Nigeria, Cameroon, Central African Republic, Equatorial Guinea, Gabon, Republic of Congo, Democratic Republic of Congo and Kenya.

The latter, Kenya, is included in the list because the species moved there fleeing deforestation in the equatorial rainforest.

It lives in warm, humid rainforests in this region, and is considered tropical and subtropical. This is where it finds abundant food and shelter among the dense canopy of trees.

3. The blue-headed bee-eater specializes in catching flying insects

Like the other members of the Coraciiformes group, the blue-headed bee-eater is able to catch insects in flight. It tends to prefer bees, but isn’t averse to butterflies and other insects, such as wasps, bumblebees, mosquitoes and flies.

Unlike other species, which spend long periods flying over areas and feeding in flight, this bee-eater usually returns to its branch with its prey to eat it safely.

4. A solitary bird

There is not much data on this bird’s behavior patterns, unfortunately. It’s known to be solitary (except during the breeding season) and diurnal, when it’s fully active. Its day usually consists of perching on branches in the high forest canopy, waiting to spot its prey.

When it spots an insect, it heads for it at full speed, catches it, and returns to its branch to eat it. In this way it feels safe and can continue to scan the treetops for more food.

5. The mystery of blue-headed bee-eater reproduction

When it comes to studying the reproduction of this species, there are many unknowns. It has been inferred, through their resemblance to other species, that their courtship and mating season begins at the end of the rainy season, when the weather is milder and food is still plentiful.

It’s usually the male who seeks out the female and tries to convince her to mate by bringing her insects as a gift. If she accepts, they will build a nest high in the treetops. There she will usually lay six or seven eggs and both parents will participate in raising the chicks.

6. Least Concern

This bird is considered, according to the IUCN Red List, to be of Least Concern (LC). This is because there’s insufficient data on its population, so it isn’t possible to estimate the rate at which its numbers are declining. However, what experts do know is that they are clearly declining.

7. Facing threats

A blue-headed bee-eater.
Merops muelleri.

Even with this scarce information, there’s no denying that the equatorial rainforest is getting smaller. The displacement of the species to Kenya suggests that it’s able to adapt, relatively speaking, to new environments, but also that it has fewer and fewer resources available.

On the other hand, so many Central African species are in danger of extinction that efforts tend to be devoted either to the ecosystem itself and the protection of the land, or to other animals in a much more critical state.

Therefore, what remains is to continue researching and fighting to preserve nature, as the next piece of bad news could be that the blue-headed bee-eater is much less abundant than expected. Let us never lose motivation when it comes to protecting our planet!

All cited sources were thoroughly reviewed by our team to ensure their quality, reliability, currency, and validity. The bibliography of this article was considered reliable and of academic or scientific accuracy.

  • BirdLife International. 2016. Merops muelleriThe IUCN Red List of Threatened Species 2016: e.T22736507A95136124. https://dx.doi.org/10.2305/IUCN.UK.2016-3.RLTS.T22736507A95136124.en. Accessed on 23 December 2022.
  • Merops muelleri. (s. f.). eBird. Recuperado 23 de diciembre de 2022, de https://ebird.org/ebird/home?siteLanguage=es_ES
  • Kofron, C. P., & Chapman, A. (1995). Deforestation and bird species composition in Liberia, West Africa. Tropical Zoology8(2), 239-256.
  • Burt, D. B. (2004). Plumage‐based phylogenetic analyses of the Merops bee‐eaters. Ibis146(3), 481-492.

This text is provided for informational purposes only and does not replace consultation with a professional. If in doubt, consult your specialist.