Feeding ecology and diet

All bee-eaters appear to be specialists in eating bees and other venomous hymenoptera. Studies of the diet of more than 15 species show that 60-80% of the diet is honeybees, wasps, and ants. But they will also pursue nearly any insect of suitable size, provided it is flying. A few species forage occasionally for large insects and small lizards on the ground, and there are even observations of bee-eaters catching small fish. A few larger species forage mainly on the wing, but most bee-

eaters are "sit-and-wait" hunters, scanning the habitat from a perch with their keen eyes, chasing down likely prey with a flight that may take them even 150-180 ft (50-60 m) from their perch, then returning in a flash of color to subdue the prey for consumption.

Bee-eaters have stereotyped behaviors for dealing with prey—and they clearly recognize those with potentially dangerous venom and sting. After repeatedly smacking the head of the prey item against a perch, the bee-eater juggles the insect's body in its bill, biting along the abdomen from near the middle (thorax) toward the tip. This behavior often expresses a droplet of venom from the bee or wasp. Then the bee-eater wipes the tip of the insect's abdomen back and forth across the perch in a behavior known as "bee-rubbing." Many times this behavior pulls the stinger and poison gland out of the prey item.

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