Little Bee-eater

A small, mostly green Bee-eater common thoughout South Africa

South Africa BirdlifeThe Little Bee-eater {Merops pusillus}

A small, mostly green Bee-eater. As with other Bee-eaters the bill is long, slender and down curved. The bill is black and the feet and legs are dark pinkish. The upperparts are bright green.

The underparts and outer flight feathers are a rich orange. The Little Bee-eater has a black collar separating the yellow throat from the orange breast.

The centre feathers of the tail are green, and the outer feathers are orange. It has a broad, dark line extending back from the eye, and a turquoise patch just above the eye. Little Bee-eaters are a common species of bushveld, and open woodland, prefers areas with some open ground and reasonably low perches.

Quick Facts


Height is about 15 to 17 cm.
Weight is 11 to 18 gms when fully grown.


Woodlands, savannah, rivers.


Common all over Southern and South Africa. Little Bee-eaters are commonly found in north-eastern South Africa and have taken to residing at golf courses where they nest in holes excavated in the bunkers


They feed on flying insects especially bees, wasps and hornets. They hawk insects aerially and then return to the perch to beat them to death.


It is usually seen singly or in small parties, in clearings in the bush. It hawks low down in small forays and quite often returns to the same perch, often with their insect prey which they kill by hitting it on a branch. May roost in larger numbers at night, up to 15 birds sleeping huddled in a row. Migration is limited to seasonal movements depending on rainfall patterns. These birds roost communally, lined up on a tree branch.


Little Bee-eaters nest from September to November. The nests are a small burrow usually 50 to 130cm long, excavated in a low bank or Antbear hole. Unlike most bee-eaters, these are solitary nesters. They lay 4 to 6 spherical white eggs. Both the male and the female incubate the eggs for 18 to 20 days.


Incubation lasts for 18 to 20 days.

Life Expectancy

12 to 18 years.


Eagles, Storks, Raptors.


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