Merops apiaster (Linnaeus, 1758)
Family: Coraciiformes > Meropidae
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.
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.
|Species of European Conservation Concern||Least Concern|
|IUCN Red List of Threatened Species (global)||Least Concern|
|Schedule 1 license required (to disturb)||Yes|
|Birds Directive Annex 1||No|
|Listed on the Annexes of||WCA(I), Bern(III), Bonn(II)|
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.
Occupied 10-km squares in UK
European Distribution Map
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.
Information about movement and migration based on online bird portals (e.g. BirdTrack), Ringing schemes and tracking studies.
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
|Field Codes||2-letter: MZ | 5-letter code: BEEEA | Euring: 8400|
For information in another language (where available) click on a linked name
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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