Bee-eaters forage over the canopy of lowland forest, but also over mangroves,
and relatively open habitats such as grasslands, marshes, beach scrub and
even gardens and urban areas. Blue-throated Bee-eaters
usually forage in pairs, sometimes in small groups, rarely above 15. But
they may gather in flocks to hawk on swarming insects (termites, ants),
together with Swifts and Swallows. But they roost together in trees in mangroves
Beberek, Berek Berek Pirus/Leher
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. Occasionally, they
may eat small lizards and 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.
Bee-eaters are said to be attracted to smoke; to snap up insects driven
out as land is cleared by fire for agricultural use.
and wetland wildlife at
Sungei Buloh Nature Park
features: Small (27-28cm), chocolate head, nape
and upper back contrasts with blue throat; long central
tail streamers (9cm). Genders look alike.
Juvenile: Duller; chocolate
cap replaced by green; throat green rather than blue;
lacks elongated central feathers.
Call: Described as a liquid
be-rek, be-rek; terrip-terrip. Alarm
call is a sharp chip.
In flight: Metallic pale
rump contrasts with darker blue upper tail.
Similar birds: Blue-tailed
Bee-eater (M. philippinus): Has e rufous throat;
lacks the chocolate head and back of the Blue-throated.
Both have a long blue tail, similar call and look similar
in flight, although the Blue-tailed glides more.
Status in Singapore: Common
resident and uncommon winter visitor throughout the island
and to North and South offshore islands.
World distribution: East
and Southeast Asia including Java and Borneo.
Classification: Family Meropidae.
World 26 species, Singapore 2 species. The Malay name
is berek berek which is the sound of its call.
Breeding: Bee-eaters court by flickering
their tails and puffing out throat feathers. The female may initiate courtship.
When the males initiate, they usually offer their mates a snack of an insect,
sometimes feeding several insects in succession. The male bows a few times
before he mates.
3-6, usually 4, white
eggs are laid. Both parents incubate the eggs, which is done as soon as
they are laid so the hatchlings emerge at different times. If food is not
abundant, the older siblings kill the younger ones with their sharp hooked
bills. Usually only 1-2 survive to fledge about 30 days later. The young
stay in their tunnel nests a few weeks after fledging. Both parents feed
the young, choosing large dragonflies, rather than stinging insects. In
Singapore, Blue-throated Bee-eater nesting colonies are not easily located.
nest in small colonies, usually of 5-20 pairs, but can reach as many
as 1,000. They tunnel out a nest and prefer light sandy soil that
allows good drainage; including beach dunes, sand quarries, even lawns,
golf courses and air fields! Few colonies are found on vertical surfaces;
instead, they prefer level ground or a low, shallow slope. On level
ground, the tunnel slopes down sharply, levels off and may then rise
slightly upwards again. The burrows are about 7 cm wide and 1-3 m
deep and the nest chamber is about 20 x 45 cm and unlined. Both parents
share tunnelling duties, using their bills and feet to dig. One keeps
a look out while the other digs. More than one tunnel may be dug before
egg-laying starts. Heavy downpours may cause a colony to abandon a
site and re-start elsewhere.
other Bee-eater species, it is common for related birds or offspring
from the previous season to help out mated pairs raise a brood. This
is less well developed among Blue-throated Bee-eaters. Studies of
Blue-throated Bee-eater nests, however, suggest that a small proportion
of the brood result from the male mating with another female (!) or
from eggs dumped in the nest by neighbouring pairs.
Migration: The Blue-throated Bee-eater
breeds in Singapore and the Malay peninsula in April-September, then strangely
migrates to Indonesia thereafter. At the time when they leave, the Blue-tailed
Bee-eater arrives. They are probably the only bird to breed here and migrate
away during the non-breeding season. They migrate in small groups of not
more than 15. In Singapore, they are found in scrub, mangrove, forest, cultivated
Status and threats: Blue-throated
Bee-eaters are not considered at risk in Singapore. Although nesting sites
of Blue-throated Bee-eaters are affected by human interference, they adapt
by nesting in smaller groups or even in lone pairs.
- Morten Strange,
"A Photographic Guide to Birds of Malaysia and Singapore: including
Southeast Asia, the Philippines and Borneo", Periplus, 2000
(p. 186: 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. 527-529: identification, distribution map,
habits, habitat, migration, conservation).
- 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).
- Clive Briffett,
"A Guide to the Common Birds of Singapore", BP Science
Centre,1992 (p. 84: habit, habitat)
- Lim Kim Seng,
"Pocket Checklist of the Birds of the Republic of Singapore",
Nature Society (Singapore), 1999 (Abundance, status, Chinese and Malay
- Lim Kim Seng,
"Vanishing Birds of Singapore", Nature Society (Singapore),
1992 (p. 11: status in Singapore).
- Christopher Hails,
"Birds of Singapore" illustrated by Frank Jarvis, Times
Editions, 1987 reprinted 1995 (p. 107: habits, description, status in
Singapore, and lovely drawings of the birds).
- M W F Tweedie,
"Common Birds of the Malay Peninsula", Longman,1970
(p. 29: description, distribution, habits, habitat, drawing).
- G C Madoc, "An
Introduction to Malayan Birds", Malayan Nature Society, 1947
(p. 99: description, habits, habitat).
- Sir John A S Bucknill
and E N Chasen, "Birds of Singapore and South-East Asia",
Tynron Press, 1927, edition 1990 (p. 129-132: identification, status
in Singapore, distribution, field notes on habits, drawings).
- C Hillary Fry
and Kathie Fry, "Kingfishers, Bee-Eaters and Rollers: A Handbook",
Christopher Helm, 1992 (p. 277-79: identification, habitat, habits,
diagrams of bill).
- David Attenborough,
"The Life of Birds", Princeton University Press, 1998
(p. 92, 226: feeding and nesting habits).