It is that time of year again where soaring overhead each morning and evening are the Bee Eaters. Flying so high and fast overhead looking like they are playing with each other. The sound of these birds is also amazing too and so lovely to hear. As yet though that I haven’t been able to take a photograph of these colourful birds with my camera or even my phone camera…..to high and too fast and I’m too slow to get them!!
Bee Eaters are one of the more beautiful migratory birds visiting Cyprus, they arrive in large numbers in the spring (normally in May you will see them swooping around in the air) and autumn (September) as they make the long journey between Central and Eastern Europe and Africa. Small numbers of these beautiful colourful birds sometimes stay for extended periods (up to 3 months at a time) in Cyprus, but this is not normal.
Of course as with many animals and birds Bee Eaters are subject to predators as they migrate to and from their destination with as many as 30% of these birds not surviving the round trip. Eleonora’s falcons, are the main cause of these casualties.
As the name suggests Bee Eaters “do” eat bees but it isn’t their main diet and they will of course also feed on flying insects too, including those detrimental to bees such as wasps. The food they consume is only those that are caught on the wing. They do not eat any insects that are on plants or on the ground. They will mostly feed in areas where they can perch and watch their food flying around and then launch themselves after their prey. They snatch the insects out of the air with the tip of their strong beaks, crushing the smaller ones and devouring them on the wing. Where they have caught larger insects they will hold these until they perch again, where they will proceed to beat the insect on the perch to kill it and break it up. The poisonous insects they will also beat and wipe (with eyes closed) in a ritual to extract the poison before devouring it.
Although they are illegal to shoot bee hive owners have been known to take a pop at them as they worry for their hive industry. These birds are definitely wrongly named but are in fact a part of nature’s balance. Without their contribution, predatory insects would have a devastating effect on the hive populations of bees.
If you are here in Cyprus at these times you have got to watch out for these birds swirling through the air as they feed as well as sitting on the telegraph wires.