Southern Carmine Bee-eater

© Nigel Dennis


Southern Carmine bee-eater (Merops nubicoides)


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.
The tail is carmine in colour. Like all bee-eaters, the southern carmine bee-eater has a black eye stripe and a turquoise crown.


The southern carmine bee-eater hunts flying insects on the wing. Once they catch an insect, they will return to a perch to kill the insect and remove its sting, by repeatedly hitting the insect against the branch.

Southern Carmine Bee-eater Breeding

The southern carmine bee-eater does not breed in South Africa, but in Zambia.
The southern carmine bee-eater is monogamous and breeds in large colonies. They tunnel into river banks and nest at the end of the tunnel.

Southern Carmine Bee-eater Behaviour

The southern carmine bee-eater is an inter-African migrant, arriving in South Africa around August or September and departing around April.
The southern carmine bee-eater can be found hunting from the backs of large animals, using the animal as a mobile perch. When the animal moves, it flushes the flying insects and the bee-eater will then hunt the insect, before returning to the animals back. Other than this practice, it will mostly hunt on the wing. This bee-eater is attracted to wildfires, in order to hunt any insets flushed by the fire.



Southern Carmine Distribution and Habitat

The southern carmine bee-eater is found in open woodland and savanna type environments. This intra-African migrant can be seen in Northwest and Limpopo Provinces.