Merops apiaster (Linnaeus, 1758) MZ BEEEA 8400
Family: Coraciiformes > Meropidae

Bee-eater, Philip Croft

With its brightly-coloured plumage the Bee-eater delivers a sense of the exotic. While most often seen as a rare visitor there have been several high profile breeding attempts in recent years.

Select a topic for more facts and statistics about the Bee-eater

  • Breeding
  • Winter


Bee-eater identification is usually straightforward.


Listen to example recordings of the main vocalisations of Bee-eater, provided by xeno-canto contributors.


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Status and Trends

Population size and trends and patterns of distribution based on BTO surveys and atlases with data collected by BTO volunteers.


This species can be found on the following statutory and conservation listings and schedules.



Historically, this species has been a scarce migrant to the UK, but the number of breeding records has increased recently with breeding attempts occurring in 2002, 2005 and 2006, and then two pairs nesting in both 2014 and 2015 and three pairs in 2017 (RBBP data). It is still unclear whether or not these records represent the early stages of colonisation of the UK.


Bee-eaters are scarce passage migrants and very rare breeders. During 2008–11 there is a wide scatter of breeding season passage birds but none attempted to breed. More recently two pairs successfully nested in a quarry in North Norfolk in 2022.

Bee-eater breeding distribution 2008-11
Britain and Ireland Breeding Distribution 2008-2011.
More from the Atlas Mapstore.

Occupied 10-km squares in UK

European Distribution Map

European Breeding Bird Atlas 2


Bee-eaters are scarce spring overshoot migrants and very rare breeders. Most records are from late spring into summer, with reporting higher than the historical average due to a well-publicised breeding event in 2022.

Weekly occurence of Bee-eater from BirdTrack
Weekly occurrence patterns (shaded cells) and reporting rates (vertical bars) based on BirdTrack data. Reporting rates give the likelihood of encountering the species each week.


Information about movement and migration based on online bird portals (e.g. BirdTrack), Ringing schemes and tracking studies.


View a summary of recoveries in the Online Ringing Report.


Lifecycle and body size information about Bee-eater, including statistics on nesting, eggs and lifespan based on BTO ringing and nest recording data.



Sample sizes are too small to report Biometrics for this species.

Feather measurements and photos on featherbase


For information in another language (where available) click on a linked name

Welsh: Gwybedog Gwenyn
Catalan: abellerol comú
Czech: vlha pestrá
Danish: Biæder
Dutch: Bijeneter
Estonian: mesilasenäpp
Finnish: mehiläissyöjä
French: Guêpier d’Europe
German: Bienenfresser
Hungarian: gyurgyalag
Icelandic: Býsvelgur
Irish: Beachadóir Eorpach
Italian: Gruccione
Latvian: bišu dzenis
Lithuanian: europinis bitininkas
Norwegian: Bieter
Polish: zolna (zwyczajna)
Portuguese: abelharuco-comum
Slovak: vcelárik zlatý
Slovenian: cebelar
Spanish: Abejaruco europeo
Swedish: biätare


Interpretation and scientific publications about Bee-eater from BTO scientists.


Causes of change

The northward range expansion of the Bee-eater is likely to be driven, at least in part, by the effects of climate change. Predictions based on models of future climate conditions suggest that further northwards range expansion will occur within Europe, although the predictions for the UK are variable and depend on the algorithms selected for the modelling (Stiels et al. 2021).

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