Whitefronted beeeater

Merops bullockoides

TAXONOMY

Merops bullockoides A. Smith, 1834, Marico River, South Africa. Sometimes considered a subspecies of M. bullocki. Monotypic.

OTHER COMMON NAMES

French: Guêpier à front blanc; German: Weissstirnspint; Spanish: Abejaruco Frentiblanco.

PHYSICAL CHARACTERISTICS

8.5-9.5 in (22-24 cm); 1-1.4 oz (28-38 g). Upperparts and wings are blue-tinged green; underparts are buff; thighs and undertail coverts are blue; spread tail is green above and blackish below. White forehead, cheeks, and chin are sharply defined from the black mask and red throat.

DISTRIBUTION

Occurs south of the forested Congo basin across the breadth of Africa. Locally common north along the Rift Valley in Kenya to Lake Turkana, and on the west side of Lake Tanganyika north to Rwanda.

HABITAT

Occupies wooded savannas.

BEHAVIOR

Among the most social of all bee-eaters, roosting and breeding in large colonies (up to 400 nests) and interacting in extended family groups throughout its life. Sedentary in Kenya, but may

move widely during the non-breeding season in the southern range.

FEEDING ECOLOGY AND DIET

Family groups or clans defend foraging territories up to 4.5 mi (7 km) from the roosting/breeding colony. Within territories, members of the clan spend most of the time spaced apart on favorite perches, from which they make sallies for insect prey.

REPRODUCTIVE BIOLOGY

Throughout most of the range, breeding begins at the end of the dry season, August to October. In Kenya, where there are two somewhat unpredictable rainy periods, egg-laying may begin in October to November, or April to May, but any given population breeds during only one season. Clutch size is two to five eggs.

Cooperative breeding is common. Sixty percent of nests have one or more helpers (up to five), usually males.

CONSERVATION STATUS

Not threatened.

SIGNIFICANCE TO HUMANS None known. ♦

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