Wednesday, June 10, 2009

The Little Bee-Eater in Liberia!

Length: 15-17 cm (6.0-6.5"); no streamers.
The Little Bee-Eater (Merops pusillus) is a fairly common (though irregularly distributed) breeding visitor to Liberia's coastal savanna belt during the dry season (Nov-May). It prefers quiet roadsides or semi-open grassy areas, often not far from water. Pairs or small groups are often encountered perched close to the ground, watching for passing insects in typical bee-eater style. It burrows into sandy roadside banks or even into nearly flat ground to make its nest.
On my visit to Liberia two years ago, this picture taken at Fendel (Jan 11/07) was the best photo I was able to get of the Little Bee-Eater with my primitive digiscoping set-up (see my earlier posts about the Black Bee-Eater)! There had been a controlled grass fire in the area, and this pair was on a snag out in the open where I should have been able to get a better shot. I promised to do better the next time!
This year I visited Fendel again (Jan 19/09) with my Nikon P5100 and got these digiscoped shots of the Little Bee-Eater near dense swamp vegetation. A long grass stem is one of its favorite perches. The green upperparts of this bird blend it in so well with its verdant habitat that occasionally I have been startled when a pair of these bee-eaters, resting quietly as I approach, has suddenly taken flight!
Though the underside of the Little Bee-Eater is mostly bright yellow with rich shades of orange and brown, the dark neck band and the extension of the eye-line forward into the long black bill tend to break up the profile of this bird in the field, making it surprisingly difficult to see!


  1. oooh! These pictures are really good!

    How many more species of bee eaters are there?

  2. Bird books I have give the following information on bee-eaters:
    Worldwide: 24-26 species
    Africa: 18-19 species
    West Africa: 14 species
    Liberia: 8 species
    In my photo collection I have only 4 species, which means you've now seen all I've got! I do have a few more shots of the Little Bee-Eater, which I hope to post sometime.