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.
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.
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.
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 .