This petite bird seems much too small to be preying on bees—but this trait of the Blue-tailed Bee Eater (Merops philippinus) actually works in its favour! Its dainty size enables it to move fast to catch bees in mid-flight, and the long slender beak clamps down on the bee, keeping it at a safe distance.
To remove the venom and sting, the bird squeezes the bee and whacks it against its perch. This bird also eats dragonflies, and to a lesser extent, grasshoppers and butterflies. It is sociable, preferring to feed and roost in large flocks.
The Blue-tailed Bee Eater is actually native to the foothills of the Himalayas and Indochina, but is migratory during the colder months. It can be seen in Peninsular Malaysia during August to March.
It is a vividly-coloured bird, with a bronze-green crown and back and blue rump and tail. The upper throat is pale yellowish, giving way to dull chestnut on the lower throat and upper breast. The juvenile is duller in colour with a bluish-green crown, and no tail-prongs that is characteristic of the adult bee eater. You can currently catch this bird in action around UM enjoying its warm vacation—we spotted these two at the trees around 4th College.
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