Southern Carmine Bee-eater (Merops nubicoides)

It is a large, slender, striking bee-eater, with carmine pink and teal blue plumage, black facial mask, black bill, and long-pointed tail. Large groups often aggregate in recently-burned bushes, catching flying insects. These birds are colonial breeders, burrowing holes into sandbanks. Their call is characterized by more rasping “trik-trik-tirk” notes than their European Bee-eater cousins.

Read further to know more about the Southern Carmine Bee-eater.

What is a Southern Carmine Bee-eater?

Southern Carmine Bee-eater is a bird species belonging to the near-passerine family Meropidae. This bird can be found in Angola to Namibia, Zambia, Malawi, Mozambique, and South Africa. Its closely-related cousin, the Northern Carmine Bee-eater (M. nubicus) thrives from Senegal to Eritrea, and Kenya.

Its seven levels of classification are as follows:

Kingdom: Animalia

Phylum: Chordata

Class: Aves

Order: Coraciiformes

Family: Meropidae

Genus: Merops

Species: M. nubicoides

Southern Carmine Bee-eater Physical Description

Southern Carmine Bee-eaters are large bee-eaters, measuring from 9.4 inches to 10.6 inches, and weighing 40 grams to 54 grams. They have carmine-pink upperparts and belly, and azure-blue to olive-green undertail tetrices and rump. The bluish color may vary depending on light conditions. The upperwings show green-blue tertiary flight feathers, while the longest primary feathers sport a blue subterminal patch on the outer webbings. Meanwhile, underwing tetrices have a cinnamon-buff hue. The tail is also carmine, with streamers or central retrices, that adds 4.7 inches or 12 centimeters to the bird’s total length. Juveniles or immature birds are paler and lack the streamers.

Where can they be spotted?

Southern Carmine Bee-eaters thrives in savannas, woodlands, floodplains. It nests on riverbanks and cliffs along streams. It can be found in Angola to Namibia, Zambia, Malawi, Mozambique, and South Africa.

Interesting Facts You Should Know About the Southern Carmine Bee-eater

Southern Carmine Bee-eaters feeds mainly on insects, such as locusts, grasshoppers, wasps, beetles, cicadas, butterflies, and as their name suggests, bees like honeybees and carpenter bees. They sail either in a direct flight or in circles to pursue their prey then return to their perch where they swallow their victim of beat them first before consuming. These birds are highly-gregarious, often occurring in small flocks to forage. At night, they roost together up to a hundred birds.

In the breeding season, these birds aggregate in huge colonies, preferring riverside cliffs and riverbanks. They become more noisy, accompanied by the raised throat, crown, and wing feathers, while the tail is fanned. Males also “coursthip” feed the females.

The egg-laying season usually takes place at the beginning of the rainy season. The nest is placed in burrows that these birds dig 3 to 4 months before the egg-laying period, usually at the end of the rainy season when soil is still damp and soft. The nest is used for decades.

The female Southern Carmine Bee-eater lays a clutch of 2-5 eggs, which both sexes incubate. Broods are cared for and fed by both parents. Chick will fledge 23 to 30 days after hatching.

The population of Southern Carmine Bee-eater is threatened by human development and disturbances, such as persecution, degradation of their habitat, and use of pesticides. Nevertheless, they seem to be locally common across their range are currently evaluated as Least Concern (LC) under the IUCN Red List of Threatened Species.



Chobe National Park

Linyanti Swamp

Makgadikgadi Pan

Mashatu Game Reserve

Okavango Delta

Moremi Game Reserve



Kruger National Park

Madikwe Game Reserve


Caprivi Region



Lechwe Plains

Lower Zambezi

South Luangwa

Mosi-oa-Tunya National Park




Lake Kariba

Mana Pools

Matobo Hills

Victoria Falls

Carmine Bee-eater
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