Bee-Eaters of South Africa

© Shem Compion
Southern carmine Bee-eater with its catch

Common to Vagrant

There are nine species of bee-eaters found in South Africa, from the commonly found white-fronted bee-eater to the rare vagrant, the Bohms bee-eater.

Bee-eaters have pointed wings and long, manoeuvrable tails, that allows fast and very agile flight. As the bird's name implies, these birds are insectivores and feed primarily on flying insects with stings, like bees and wasps. Bee-eaters hunt by means of a technique called hawking, hunting on the wing for food, and they very rarely come down onto the ground to hunt.

Blue-cheeked Bee-eater

The blue-cheeked bee-eater is a rich pastel coloured bee-eater. This bee-eater is mostly green in colour, with blue flanks. It has blue facial colours and a black eye stripe, a yellow and brown throat....more

European Bee-eater

The European bee-eater is the most colourful of the bee-eaters, with a yellow throat, black gorget and a brown/chestnut and yellow back. The underparts of this bird are a turquoise colour....more

Little Bee-eater

This is the world’s smallest bee-eater at a length of 16 cm. The little bee-eater is bright green on top with orange or buff underparts, including the outer flight feathers....more

Southern Carmine Bee-eater

This is the largest bee-eater found in Africa, at a total length of 35 cm. The southern carmine bee-eater is a striking carmine colour, with the under tail being turquoise....more

Swallow-tailed Bee-eater

The swallow-tailed bee-eater is bright green on top with a green breast and a pale blue lower belly. A blue gorget (collar) separates the green breast from a pale yellow throat....more

White-fronted Bee-eater

This is the only bee-eater in the region with a red/white throat. The white-fronted bee-eater is green on top with buff underparts. The white-fronted bee-eater has a white forehead...more

White-throated Bee-eater

The white-throated bee-eater is predominantly green, with the face being white. A black eye stripe, gorget and crown makes this bee-eater conspicuous....more