We have just been through a storm front that has stayed with us for two days, bringing much-needed freshness to the dry, dusty hills.  Sadly, probably one of the last ones before autumn.  The valleys in the mornings have been filled with the cool mists of early summer, and it seems they have brought with them one of our favorite migratory birds, The European Bee-eater (merops apiaster).

European Bee-eaters visit Cyprus as they migrate between Central and Eastern Europe and Africa.  They bring their beautiful resonant chorus with them, and their dazzling plumage is a wonderful sight as they soar in the blue skies.  Their journey is an arduous one, with more than 30% not surviving the trip, mostly due to predation by other birds and humans.  For the large part their cheery stay is a short one, but a small number do stay over for 2 or 3 months in Cyprus, blessing us with their presence.

They are very chatty birds, and their calls echo across the valleys as they wheel and soar in an amazing acrobatic display in groups of up to 30 or more birds, feeding on a large range of insects.

The European Bee-eater is a medium sized bird with a large head, long curved pointed beak, and large pointed wings reminiscent of a swallow.  Plumage is quite spectacular, with a blue underbelly, chestnut head leading to a golden-brown back, a yellow and white throat, and with a black “bandit’s mask”.


They only feed on airborne insects, and will not eat those on plants or on the ground.  They will mostly feed from a nearby perch, where they launch themselves after their prey.  They snare the insects out of the air with their beaks, crushing and eating the smaller ones in flight.  The larger insects they will take to their perch, where when they will beat the insect on the perch to kill it and break it up.  The poisonous insects they will also beat and wipe in a ritual to extract the poison before devouring it.

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