Bluebearded beeeater

Nyctyornis athertoni

TAXONOMY

Merops athertoni Jardine and Selby, 1830, India. Two subspecies. OTHER COMMON NAMES

French: Guêpier à barbe bleue; German: Blaubartspint; Spanish: Abejaruco Barbiazul.

PHYSICAL CHARACTERISTICS

12.5-13.5 in (31-34 cm); 2.5-3.3 oz (70-93 g). The largest bee-eater and, along with its congener, clearly differentiated from the other genera by a stouter bill and a lax beard of feathers running from the base of the bill to the lower breast. Upperparts mainly green; belly is buff with broad green streaks. Forehead is pale azure-blue; long, broad throat feathers are dark blue grading to azure on the tips.

DISTRIBUTION

India to Indochina, but absent from the Malay Peninsula. HABITAT

Clearings and more open areas of deep forest, occurring at elevations up to 7,150 ft (2,200 m), where it inhabits moss and deciduous forests.

BEHAVIOR

Birds spend most of their time in pairs, perched at the top of or at the outer side of trees, in search of food.

FEEDING ECOLOGY AND DIET

Relatively little is known, but honeybees, wasps, large beetles, and dragonflies are commonly taken. The blue beard may act as a flower mimic, attracting honeybees close enough to be snapped up by birds without moving from the perch.

REPRODUCTIVE BIOLOGY

Solitary nester, digging nesting burrows up to 9.75 ft (3 m) into stream or road banks. In India and Nepal, there are two breeding periods, February to May and August to October. In Indochina, egg laying is most common in April to May, but breeding may occur anytime until October. Clutch size is six eggs.

CONSERVATION STATUS

Not threatened.

SIGNIFICANCE TO HUMANS None known. ♦

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