A juvenile consuming a hornet. September 2014, Pivot fields, Dubai, UAE.

The Blue-cheeked Bee-eater (Merops persicus)

By Fouad Itani


The Blue-cheeked Bee-eater is a richly colored bird from the Meropidae family. It measures 30 cm in length, with a wingspan of 47 cm, and an average weight of 45 g.

It is predominantly bright green, with contrasting blue cheeks, black eye stripe, a yellow throat, a brown upper breast, and rusty brown underwings. It possesses two elongated central tail feathers, and a fine black beak, giving the bird a general slender look. Juveniles and winter adults are slightly duller overall, losing the blue on the face to white, with juveniles lacking the elongated central tail feathers.

A brightly colored male singing.
September 2016, Ajban Farms, Abu Dhabi, UAE

During the breeding season, Blue-cheeked Bee-eaters favor sub-tropical semi-desert areas fringed with acacia trees and bushes, and always near water. In winter they are usually found in open woodland and grassland.

Blue-cheeked Bee-eaters may nest solitarily or in small colonies, usually in sandy banks or low cliffs, where they dig a 1-3 m long tunnel that leads to a nesting chamber, and lay an average of six white eggs. Incubation takes 23-26 days, and both parents take care of their brood.

Like most bee-eaters, they consume insects, mainly dragonflies, bees, wasps, and hornets. Their prey is caught in the air by quick sorties from an open perch or a telephone wire.

A juvenile with a catch.
September 2014, Pivot fields, Dubai, UAE.


A juvenile consuming a hornet.
September 2014, Pivot fields, Dubai, UAE.

The Blue-cheeked Bee-eater is a summer breeding visitor to many Middle-eastern countries, including Turkey, Iran, Iraq, Jordan, and Syria, and a widespread uncommon passage migrant to the region.


A male taking off its perch to hunt.
September 2016, Ajban Farms, Abu Dhabi,

In Lebanon it is considered to be a former breeder with one record of a small colony of about 10 pairs in 1945 near Beirut (Leavesley in Kumerlove 1962), but without subsequent evidence of breeding or records (Ramada-Jaradi & Ramadan-Jaradi 1999). 

Hopefully, and with the implementation of the new hunting law, this beautiful bird will be protected, and who knows, it might also attempt to breed again in Lebanon .


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