Species: M. viridis
Binomial name: Merops viridis
Main features: Small (27-28cm), chocolate head, nape and upper back contrasts with blue throat; long central tail streamers (9cm). Genders look alike.
Juvenile: Duller; chocolate cap replaced by green; throat green rather than blue; lacks elongated central feathers.
Call: Described as a liquid be-rek, be-rek; terrip-terrip. Alarm call is a sharp chip.
In flight: Metallic pale rump contrasts with darker blue upper tail.
Similar birds: Blue-tailed Bee-eater (M. philippinus): Has e rufous throat; lacks the chocolate head and back of the Blue-throated. Both have a long blue tail, similar call and look similar in flight, although the Blue-tailed glides more.
Bee-eaters get their names from their diet of stinging insects (bees, wasps, hornets, ants). They specialise in catching and neutralising these titbits that other birds find unappetising or dangerous.
But Bee-Eaters also catch and eat other harmless insects especially dragonflies, and also grasshoppers, butterflies. Occasionally, they may eat small lizards and fish.
Bee-eaters catch their prey on the wing. They look out for suitable prey from a tree branch or high wire (about 7m and above) then swoop down onto it. They snap up their victims with an audible click, their long, narrow bills keeping these dangerous prey a good distance away from the eyes. To get rid of the sting, the insect is vigorously whacked against the perch. Or simply squeezed to get rid of the venom.
Bee-eaters are said to be attracted to smoke; to snap up insects driven out as land is cleared by fire for agricultural use.
Blue-throated Bee-eaters forage over the canopy of lowland forest, but also over mangroves, and relatively open habitats such as grasslands, marshes, beach scrub and even gardens and urban areas. Blue-throated Bee-eaters usually forage in pairs, sometimes in small groups, rarely above 15. But they may gather in flocks to hawk on swarming insects (termites, ants), together with Swifts and Swallows. But they roost together in trees in mangroves and forests.
Breeding: Bee-eaters court by flickering their tails and puffing out throat feathers. The female may initiate courtship. When the males initiate, they usually offer their mates a snack of an insect, sometimes feeding several insects in succession. The male bows a few times before he mates.
Bee-eaters nest in small colonies, usually of 5-20 pairs, but can reach as many as 1,000. They tunnel out a nest and prefer light sandy soil that allows good drainage; including beach dunes, sand quarries, even lawns, golf courses and air fields! Few colonies are found on vertical surfaces; instead, they prefer level ground or a low, shallow slope. On level ground, the tunnel slopes down sharply, levels off and may then rise slightly upwards again. The burrows are about 7 cm wide and 1-3 m deep and the nest chamber is about 20 x 45 cm and unlined. Both parents share tunnelling duties, using their bills and feet to dig. One keeps a look out while the other digs. More than one tunnel may be dug before egg-laying starts. Heavy downpours may cause a colony to abandon a site and re-start elsewhere
3-6, usually 4, white eggs are laid. Both parents incubate the eggs, which is done as soon as they are laid so the hatchlings emerge at different times. If food is not abundant, the older siblings kill the younger ones with their sharp hooked bills. Usually only 1-2 survive to fledge about 30 days later. The young stay in their tunnel nests a few weeks after fledging. Both parents feed the young, choosing large dragonflies, rather than stinging insects. In Singapore, Blue-throated Bee-eater nesting colonies are not easily located.
Migration: The Blue-throated Bee-eater breeds in Singapore and the Malay peninsula in April-September, then strangely migrates to Indonesia thereafter. At the time when they leave, the Blue-tailed Bee-eater arrives. They are probably the only bird to breed here and migrate away during the non-breeding season. They migrate in small groups of not more than 15. In Singapore, they are found in scrub, mangrove, forest, cultivated areas.
Status and threats: Blue-throated Bee-eaters are not considered at risk in Singapore. Although nesting sites of Blue-throated Bee-eaters are affected by human interference, they adapt by nesting in smaller groups or even in lone pairs.
Photo Gallery: Blue-throated Bee-eater
Species: M. philippinus
Binomial name: Merops philippinus
The Blue-tailed Bee-eater, Merops philippinus is a near passerine bird in the bee-eater family Meropidae. It breeds in southeastern Asia. It is strongly migratory.
This species is sometimes considered to be conspecific with the Blue-cheeked Bee-eater, M. persicus.
Blue-tailed Bee-eater from behind, showing the blue rump and tail
This species, like other bee-eaters, is a richly-coloured, slender bird. It is predominantly green; its face has a narrow blue patch with a black eye stripe, and a yellow and brown throat; the tail is blue and the beak is black. It can reach a length of 23-26 cm, including the two elongated central tail feathers. Sexes are alike.
This is a bird which breeds in sub-tropical open country, such as farmland, parks or ricefields. It is most often seen near large waterbodies. Like other bee-eaters it predominantly eats insects, especially bees, wasps and hornets, which are caught in the air by sorties from an open perch.This species probably takes bees and dragonflies in roughly equal numbers. The insect that are caught are beaten on the perch to kill and break the exoskeleton. This habit is seen in many other members of the coraciiformes order.
These bee-eaters are gregarious, nesting colonially in sandy banks or open flat areas. They make a relatively long tunnel in which the 5 to 7 spherical white eggs are laid. Both the male and the female take care of the eggs. These birds also feed and roost communally. The call is similar to that of the European Bee-eater.
Photo Gallery: Blue-tailed Bee-eater
Species: O. chinensis
Binomial name Oriolus chinensis
Main features: Medium (27cm).
Male: Bright golden-yellow plumage; black mask through eyes meeting at nape; wings and tail black and yellow; bill pink; feet grey; eyes red.
Female: As in male but duller; mantle greenish yellow.
Juvenile: Underparts whitish with blackish streaks on breast; bill grey; lacks nape band which is a badge of age
Call: Described as a fluty four-note whistle what-the-devil! or too-did-yoo or ta-KEE-you; a rising ai-oo-raa; a hissing like fighting tom cats.
In flight: Fast, direct flight with unusual freezing of flapping at intervals.
The Black-naped Oriole, Oriolus chinensis, is a member of the oriole family of passerine birds found in south Asia. This is easily differentiated from the Golden Oriole by the broad black eye stripe continuing to join on the nape. The bill is also stouter than that of the former species.It breeds from June to December seasons. The female has the mantle colour more greenish or olive. The species is resident in the Andaman and Nicobar Islands. The races here are O. c. andamanensis and O. c. macrourus and differ in the pattern of yellow on the wings and tail as well as in the size of the bill. There is a possibility of cryptic species within this group.
They are migrants in most parts of South India and are most regularly seen in the Western Ghats.
Like other orioles they feed on insects and fruit. The nest is a deep cup in a fork of a tree.
Black-naped Orioles enjoy a wide menu of plants and animals. They are fond of fruit and berries, particularly figs. Besides large insects, they also take small animals, including nestlings. For this reason, during the breeding season of other birds, Black-naped Orioles are often chased away by other birds.
Black-naped Orioles rarely descend to the ground. They forage high in trees and usually say within the canopy. Nevertheless, they are not birds of the deep forest. Originally from coastal woodlands and mangroves, they have adapted to cultivated areas and parks and gardens.
Black-naped Orioles usually forage alone or in pairs. They are most active in the morning and evenings, making their melodious calls as they forage.
Breeding: Black-naped Orioles breed in Singapore. They build a cup-shaped nest at a fork at the end of a slender branch high in a tree. The nest is made from bark, small twigs, grass and roots. 2-3 bluish-white eggs with brown spots are laid. They hatch in about 2 weeks.
Photo Gallery: Black-naped Oriole