Saturday, March 10, 2012

Little Green Bee-eater - Sri Lanka

A Green Bee Eater (Merops orientalis) photographed in Yala, Sri Lanka
Little Green Bee-eater (Merops orientalis) - Yala, Sri Lanka

The Little Green Bee-eater is a common sight throughout Sri Lanka's dry zone and can often be heard twittering in open grasslands. Its Blue/Green chin makes it easy to differentiate this species from other Bee-eaters found in Sri Lanka (Blue-tailed Bee-Eater, Chestnut-headed Bee-eater and the European Bee-eater).

More photographs inside.

A Green Bee Eater (Merops orientalis) photographed in Panama, Sri Lanka
Little Green Bee-eater (Merops orientalis) - Panama, Sri Lanka

On my last trip to Sri Lanka I photographed this species on a number of occasions in Yala, Panama and Anuradhapura. Most of these photographs were taken when the species was perched on branches at or below eye level. Later on I read that Bee-eaters in Sri Lanka seem to divide the airspace vertically with the Green Bee-eater occupying the lower part,  the Chestnut-headed Bee-eater occupying the middle region and the upper region occupied by the Blue-tailed Bee-eater.

A Green Bee Eater (Merops orientalis) photographed in Panama, Sri Lanka
Little Green Bee-eater (Merops orientalis) - Panama, Sri Lanka

This species of Bee-eater is distributed throughout sub-Saharan Africa, Western Arabia and Asia. Several variations in plumage can be found across different regions and a number of subspecies have been identified. Some populations are said to move around seasonally but patterns have not been observed.

A Green Bee Eater (Merops orientalis) photographed in Anuradhapura, Sri Lanka
Little Green Bee-eater (Merops orientalis) - Anuradhapura, Sri Lanka

The Green Bee-eater's diet mainly consists of insects including Bees, Wasps and Ants which are caught in flight. This species seems to hunt from perches which are relatively close to the ground (less than a meter in height). Once it captures it's prey it can often be seen thrashing the insect on its perch to get rid of stingers and the exoskeleton.

A Green Bee Eater (Merops orientalis) photographed in Yala, Sri Lanka
Little Green Bee-eater (Merops orientalis) - Yala, Sri Lanka

This species is also known to sand bathe quite frequently (picture below) and have been known to bathe in water too. These birds are solitary nesters and their nests are tunnels dug into a sandy bank (some can be as deep as five feet). A clutch consists of 3-5 eggs which are incubated by both sexes. The eggs take 14 days to hatch and chicks fledge in 3 - 4 weeks.

A Green Bee Eater (Merops orientalis) photographed in Panama, Sri Lanka
Little Green Bee-eater (Merops orientalis) - Panama, Sri Lanka

All these photographs were taken with the Canon 7D and the 100-400mm lens. Photographing these birds in flight is tough as their flight paths are not predictable. I haven't been too successful at getting decent flight shots of them to date but will keep trying.


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