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Blue-tailed Bee-eater
Merops superciliosus/philippinus

Berek Berek Sawah/Ekor Biru (Malay)

Bee-eaters get their names from their diet of stinging insects (bees, wasps, hornets, ants). They specialise in catching and neutralising these titbits that other birds find unappetising or dangerous. But Bee-Eaters also catch and eat other harmless insects especially dragonflies, and also grasshoppers, butterflies. In Sungei Buloh, they also catch small fish.

Bee-eaters catch their prey on the wing. They look out for suitable prey from a tree branch or high wire (about 7m and above) then swoop down onto it. They snap up their victims with an audible click, their long, narrow bills keeping these dangerous prey a good distance away from the eyes. To get rid of the sting, the insect is vigorously whacked against the perch. Or simply squeezed to get rid of the venom.
Mangrove and wetland wildlife at
Sungei Buloh Nature Park
Main features: Small (30cm); green crown and back; yellow and rufous throat; brown upper breast; underparts apple green.

Call: Described as a liquid be-rek, be-rek; or rillip rillip rillip.

In flight: Bright blue rump and tail; underwing coverts reddish brown; pale throat.
blue-tailed bee eater
Photo from
Morten Strange
Similar birds:
Blue-throated Bee-eater (M. viridis): The Blue-Throated lacks the rufous throat of the Blue-Tailed, but has a chestnut head and back that the Blue Tailed lacks. Both have a long blue tail and the same call.

Status in Singapore: Very common winter visitor throughout the island and to North and South offshore islands.

World distribution: Africa, India across to China and the Philippines, Southeast Asia to New Guinea.

Classification: Family Meropidae. World 26 species, Singapore 2 species.
Blue-tailed Bee-eaters usually forage in open habitats near freshwater as well as coasts. Blue-tailed Bee-eaters roost together and a roost may include huge numbers (roosts of hundreds have been observed). They prefer to roost in tall trees inland, as well as in mangroves.

Breeding: Like other Bee-eaters, the Blue-tailed Bee-eaters nest in small colonies. They tunnel out a nest and prefer light sandy soil that allows good drainage. There is a small, fluctuating colony of breeding Blue-tailed Bee-eaters in Penang. They chose a bare sandy flat ground covered with low vegetation in scrubs and tufts. On level ground, the tunnel slopes down sharply, levels off and may then rise slightly upwards again.

Migration: Those that breed in the north are believed to migrate southwards in winter. These birds are seen occasionally at Sungei Buloh in August-March. In Singapore, Blue-Tailed Bee-Eaters are found in scrub, mangrove, forest, cultivated areas and grasslands.

Status and threats: Blue-tailed Bee-eaters are not considered at risk in Singapore.

  To buy these references & others, visit
Nature's Niche
  • Morten Strange, "A Photographic Guide to Birds of Malaysia and Singapore: including Southeast Asia, the Philippines and Borneo", Periplus, 2000 (p. 185: description, voice, habits, distribution, status, photo).
  • Morten Strange, "Tropical Birds of Malaysia and Singapore", Periplus Editions, 2000 (p. 37: habits, habitat, photo).
  • David R Wells, "The Birds of the Thai-Malay Peninsula: Vol. 1 (Non-Passarines)", Academic Press, 1999 (p. 531-532: identification, distribution map, habits, habitat, migration, conservation).
  • Lim Kim Seng, "Pocket Checklist of the Birds of the Republic of Singapore", Nature Society (Singapore), 1999 (Abundance, status, Chinese and Malay names).
  • Lim Kim Seng and Dana Gardner, "Birds: An Illustrated Field Guide to the Birds of Singapore", Sun Tree Publishing Ltd., 1997 (p. 33: identification, status in Singapore, distribution, diagram, number of species).
  • G W H Davison and Chew Yen Fook, "A Photographic Guide to Birds of Peninsular Malaysia and Singapore", New Holland Publishers Ltd., 1995 (p. 62: identification, status in Singapore, distribution, photo).
  • Morten Strange and Allen Jeyarajasingam, "Birds: A Photographic Guide to the Birds of Peninsular Malaysia and Singapore", Sun Tree Publishing, 1993 (p. 85: description, distribution, habits, habitat, photo).
  • Christopher Hails, "Birds of Singapore" illustrated by Frank Jarvis, Times Editions, 1987 reprinted 1995 (p. 106: habits, description, status in Singapore, and lovely drawings of the birds).
  • James Gan, "Colourful Migratory Birds at Sungei Buloh", Wetlands Vol 5 No 3, Nov 98, Sungei Buloh Nature Park (p. 3: some titbits).
  • Lim Kim Seng, "Vanishing Birds of Singapore", Nature Society (Singapore), 1992 (p. 11: status in Singapore).
  • M W F Tweedie, "Common Birds of the Malay Peninsula", Longman,1970 (p. 30: description, distribution, habits, habitat, drawing).
  • G C Madoc, "An Introduction to Malayan Birds", Malayan Nature Society, 1947 (p. 100: description, habits, habitat).
  • David Attenborough, "The Life of Birds", Princeton University Press, 1998 (p. 92, 226: feeding and nesting habits).
By Ria Tan, 2001