To bee or not to bee… by Dr. Prasad Kamath

The Green Bee-eater…

On a late morning walk through the Mayureshwar Wildlife Sanctuary, the air was filled with thrilling bird sounds, when suddenly we saw two dainty green blue birds in front of us zestfully enjoying a warm mudbath in the middle of the road. These Green Bee-eaters were completely unaware of our presence & we’re enjoying their time in the sand & we clicked away to our heart’s content.

Green bee-eater – Merops orientalist, a beautiful name for a pretty bird. Merops is Greek for a bee-eater and the bird justifies the name as its main prey species are bees, beetles, and other insects, occasionally dragonflies. The Green Bee-eater is dainty (16-18 cm), bright green in plumage, slender-bodied, with blood-red eyes. Its slim lengthened black bill is slightly curved, characteristic of an insect-eater (insectivore). Along with green, there’s also blue on the chin and throat, yellow and reddish-orange on the head and nape, thus making it very noticeable. A black stripe runs from the base of the bill across the eye all the way to the ear-coverts (feathers that cover the ear), and also fashion a black collar at the top of the breast.

Though the Green Bee-eater likes to eat bees, it does consider other wasps, butterflies, and beetles, and odonates. It will station itself on conspicuous perches, like the top branch of a high tree, a shrub, or a stalk of grain or grass, electricity poles or wires, and other vantage points, that make it easy to spy on insects and to also have an uninterrupted flight. It usually crushes the insect in flight and so avoids being stung. On returning to its perch, it smashes the unfortunate prey on the branch to remove its sting and dirt, as well as to break the exoskeleton before swallowing it whole.


Though these birds are very camera friendly, they keep a keen eye on the photographer and do not enter the nest until the photographer moves away – a predator-avoidance behaviour that speaks of a special bird intelligence…..

This bird is not a “bird brain” for sure…!!!

All images: Varad Giri



Dr Prasad J Kamath

Consulting Gynaecologist & Obstretician
Gynaecological Endoscopic Surgeon