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10 Fascinating Facts About the Blue-Bearded Bee-Eater

The article will end with a final paragraph that summarizes the key points discussed.The Blue-bearded Bee-eater is a striking bird species known for its vibrant colors and unique features. This bird, scientifically known as Nyctyornis athertoni, is native to Southeast Asia and is a common sight in tropical forests.

In this article, we will discover more about the Blue-bearded Bee-eater, including its field identification and plumage. Identification:

Field Identification:

The Blue-bearded Bee-eater is a medium-sized bird that measures around 30 to 35cm in length and has a wingspan of 60 to 70cm.

It is easily recognizable by its bright green upperparts, blue throat and face, and distinctive blue beard. Its underparts are yellowish-green, and it has prominent yellow eyes with a black stripe across them.

One of the most remarkable features that distinguish the Blue-bearded Bee-eater from other bird species is its broad, flattened bill, which is black with a yellow tip. Similar Species:

The Blue-bearded Bee-eater has a close resemblance to other bee-eater species such as the Blue-throated Bee-eater and the Chestnut-headed Bee-eater.

One can differentiate the Blue-bearded Bee-eater from these species by its blue beard, which is absent in the other bee-eater species. The flattened, black bill with a yellow tip is also a unique feature that helps in identification.



The Blue-bearded Bee-eater has a complex molting pattern, which occurs during different seasons of the year. It undergoes a complete molt before breeding, which results in a fresh plumage with bright colors that enhance its appearance.

After breeding, it undergoes a partial molt during which the feather’s tips are worn off, causing the dulling of the colors. The bird’s plumage varies between sexes, with males having brighter colors than females.


The Blue-bearded Bee-eater is one of the most fascinating bird species, owing to its vibrant colors and unique features. It is always a treat to spot these birds in the wild and try to observe their behavior and interactions.

With this article, we have learned how to identify this species based on field characteristics and plumage differences. The Blue-bearded Bee-eater is undoubtedly a remarkable bird that continues to catch the attention of bird watchers and enthusiasts alike.

Systematics History:

The Blue-bearded Bee-eater, also known as Nyctyornis athertoni, belongs to the family Meropidae, which comprises of bee-eaters found across Africa, Europe, and Asia. The taxonomy of the bee-eaters’ family has undergone significant changes over time, with the number of genera and species varies from one revision to another.

The Blue-bearded Bee-eater itself has been the subject of taxonomic revisions, leading to changes in its classification. Geographic Variation:

The Blue-bearded Bee-eater’s distribution covers the region stretching from the eastern Himalayas to Indonesia and the Philippines.

In this vast range, the species is known to have significant geographic variation in terms of plumage, size, and vocalizations. The geographic variation within a species is often a result of adaptation to different environments and genetic drift.

In the case of the Blue-bearded Bee-eater, the variation can be seen across the different subspecies. Subspecies:

There are six recognized subspecies of the Blue-bearded Bee-eater, each with distinct differences in plumage:


N.a. athertoni – Occurs in northeast India and Bangladesh. It has a brighter green upperparts and a more vivid blue throat and face than other subspecies.

2. N.a. fusca – Found in Burma and parts of Thailand.

This subspecies has dark brown or black upperparts, and the blue beard and throat are less prominent. 3.

N.a. versteegii – Occurs in Sumatra and the Malay Peninsula. This subspecies has a greenish-yellow throat instead of blue, and the beard is less elongated.

4. N.a. borneensis – Found in Borneo.

This subspecies has greenish-yellow underparts and a shorter beard than other subspecies. 5.

N.a. sumatrensis – Occurs in Sumatra. This subspecies has a greenish-yellow underparts and a shorter bill than other subspecies.

6. N.a. sinensis – Found in the Philippines.

This subspecies has a bluer throat and smaller size than other subspecies. Related Species:

The Blue-bearded Bee-eater belongs to the genus Nyctyornis, which contains three other species: the red-bearded Bee-eater (Nyctyornis amictus), the green-backed Bee-eater (Nyctyornis athertoni), and the blue-throated Bee-eater (Nyctyornis asiaticus).

These species are mostly found in Southeast Asia and share similar physical characteristics, such as broad, flattened bills and vibrant colors. Historical Changes to Distribution:

Historically, the Blue-bearded Bee-eater’s distribution has undergone changes due to various factors such as climate change, habitat loss, and human activities.

The bird was once widely distributed in Southeast Asia, but its range has become fragmented due to deforestation and urbanization. In Myanmar, the bird’s population has significantly declined due to habitat loss, and it is now considered critically endangered.

Another notable change to the Blue-bearded Bee-eater’s distribution is its northward expansion. The bird was once confined to southern Southeast Asia, but it has since expanded its range northward into China’s Yunnan Province and southwestern Taiwan.

The expansion is believed to be a result of climatic changes and increasing habitat availability due to human activities. In conclusion, the Blue-bearded Bee-eater’s taxonomy and geographic variation have undergone significant changes over time, leading to the recognition of six subspecies.

The bird’s distribution has also changed due to various factors, with its historical range becoming fragmented, and expansion northward into new areas. Understanding these changes is vital for the conservation of this species, which is facing threats from habitat loss and other human activities.


The Blue-bearded Bee-eater is primarily a bird of tropical forests and woodland habitats. It is found in a wide range of forest types, from lowland rainforests to montane forests at elevations of up to 1800 meters.

The bird also occurs in secondary forests and selectively logged areas but is rarely found in open habitats. The Blue-bearded Bee-eater’s habitat selection is believed to be influenced by the availability of food, nesting sites, and microhabitat characteristics.

Movements and Migration:

The Blue-bearded Bee-eater is a sedentary bird, which means that it does not undertake regular long-distance movements or migrations. The bird’s movements are mostly associated with the search for food, nesting sites, or to escape harsh weather conditions.

The breeding pairs tend to be territorial and defend their nesting sites from intruders, while juvenile birds disperse to establish territories of their own. At times, Blue-bearded Bee-eaters may exhibit some form of altitudinal migration, moving to different elevations in response to seasonal changes.

For example, during the winter months, the birds may move to lower elevations, where food is more abundant and easier to find, while during the breeding season, they return to higher elevations where the nesting conditions are favorable. However, these movements are not regular, and the extent to which they occur varies across different populations.

The Blue-bearded Bee-eater exhibits a fascinating behavior when it comes to the nesting season. During the breeding season, the birds form communal roosts or colonies, where they nest and breed together.

These communal roosts may comprise hundreds of pairs of Blue-bearded Bee-eaters, and the birds exhibit a high degree of social organization within the colony. They also exhibit cooperative breeding behavior, with non-breeding individuals helping to feed and care for the chicks.

Like other bee-eater species, the Blue-bearded Bee-eater is an aerial forager, catching insects on the wing. The birds tend to perch on branches with a clear view of the surrounding area and sally forth to catch prey when it flies by.

They are opportunistic feeders and will take a wide variety of insects, including bees, wasps, butterflies, dragonflies, and beetles. The Blue-bearded Bee-eater’s flattened bill is specially adapted for catching and removing the stingers and wings from its prey.

In urban areas and farmland, Blue-bearded Bee-eaters have been observed to forage on ground-nesting bees and wasps. The birds dig shallow holes in the ground, which they use as a perch to observe potential prey.

They then sally forth and catch the insects on the ground, returning to the perch to eliminate the wings and stingers. In conclusion, the Blue-bearded Bee-eater is a sedentary bird that inhabits tropical forests and woodland habitats.

The bird exhibits some form of altitudinal migration, moving to different elevations in response to seasonal changes. The Blue-bearded Bee-eater is also a communal breeder and forages aerially, catching insects on the wing.

Its flattened bill is specially adapted for catching and removing the stingers and wings from its prey. The Blue-bearded Bee-eater’s flexible behavior and adaptability to different foraging strategies make it a remarkable bird and a fascinating subject of study.

Diet and Foraging:


The Blue-bearded Bee-eater is primarily an insectivorous bird that feeds mainly on bees, wasps, and other flying insects. The bird captures its prey on the wing, using its broad and flattened beak, which is specially adapted for catching and removing the wings and stingers.

The bird is also known to take insects from the ground, especially in farmland and urban areas. The bird sits on an exposed perch to observe its prey, and once an insect of interest is spotted, it launches itself into the air to capture it.

While in flight, the bird uses its beak to snap the insect out of the air before returning to its perch. The Blue-bearded Bee-eater generally hunts alone, however, can also forage in small groups.


The Blue-bearded Bee-eater is an opportunistic feeder that will consume any flying insect that it can catch. The insect species consumed by the birds vary depending on their location and seasonal availability.

Insects consisting mainly of bees, wasps, butterflies, cicadas, beetles, termites, and dragonflies make up the majority of the bird’s diet. The Blue-bearded Bee-eater occasionally makes a meal of larger or less common prey, such as spiders and small lizards.

These less common prey items are mostly consumed during periods of low insect abundance. Metabolism and Temperature Regulation:

The Blue-bearded Bee-eater’s digestive system is highly efficient, breaking down food quickly to aid in its fast metabolism.

The bird consumes up to 85% of its body weight in food each day to maintain its high energy levels and cope with its high metabolic rate. The bird’s long, pointed wings and light body weight also help it maintain a high degree of agility and maneuverability, making it easier for it to catch prey on the wing.

The Blue-bearded Bee-eater has an efficient temperature regulation system that enables it to maintain its body temperature in the face of extreme environmental conditions. The bird inhabits tropical regions with hot and humid climates, where temperatures can reach up to 40 degrees Celsius.

The bird is known to regulate its body temperature by sitting in the shade or exposing its body to direct sunlight to absorb heat when temperatures are low. Sounds and Vocal Behavior:


The Blue-bearded Bee-eater is a vocal bird that produces a wide range of calls and sounds.

The bird’s vocalizations are primarily used for communication between individuals within the colony or to signal to neighboring colonies. The birds use various calls to signal danger or to communicate within the colony during nesting.

The Blue-bearded Bee-eater’s vocalizations consist of high-pitched trills, piercing chirps, and a sharp kip-kip-kip call. During breeding, the bird makes an extended roar to signal its territorial claim and attract a mate.

The birds’ vocalizations are an essential aspect of their communication, facilitating social behavior among individuals within the colony and maintaining an effective breeding system. In conclusion, the Blue-bearded Bee-eater’s diet consists mainly of flying insects that it captures on the wing, making efficient use of its broad flattened beak.

The birds’ digestive system is highly efficient and helps them cope with their high metabolic rate and the need for high energy levels to maintain their agility and maneuverability. The Blue-bearded Bee-eater’s vocalizations consist mainly of high-pitched trills and piercing chirps, and its vocal behavior plays a significant role in facilitating social behavior and the effective breeding system of the bird.



The Blue-bearded Bee-eater is a highly agile bird that moves with exceptional speed and grace. The bird’s primary mode of locomotion is through flight, which it uses to capture prey and move to different locations.

The bird is known for its hovering ability, which enables it to linger around a potential prey item before launching itself into the air to capture it. The bird’s long, pointed wings aid in its high maneuverability and excellent aerial control.


The Blue-bearded Bee-eater is a very active bird that engages in a range of self-maintenance behaviors. The birds are known to preen their feathers, especially during the breeding season when they need to keep their plumage in prime condition.

Preening helps to maintain the feathers’ structure, keep them clean and free from parasites, and promote waterproofing. The birds also engage in sunbathing, which is thought to help regulate their body temperature and prevent parasites.

The bird exposes its feathers to direct sunlight and spreads its wings to absorb the warmth. Agonistic Behavior:

The Blue-bearded Bee-eater exhibits agonistic behavior when it perceives a threat to its territory or nesting sites.

The birds will engage in vocal displays, flashing vivid colors, and chasing off intruders to defend their territory. During these displays, the birds will often puff up their feathers, extending their beards, and uttering loud calls at the perceived threat.

Sexual Behavior:

The Blue-bearded Bee-eater breeds during the monsoon season, which is the period between May and August in most parts of its range. Breeding pairs engage in courtship displays that involve extending and fluttering their wings while uttering a range of calls and vocalizations.

The birds usually remain together as a monogamous pair throughout the breeding season. Breeding:

The Blue-bearded Bee-eater is a communal breeder, which means that it breeds in large colonies.

The birds exhibit a high degree of social organization within the colony, with territorial pairs defending their nesting sites from intruders. The communal breeding strategy has several advantages, including the defense of nesting sites, improved foraging efficiency, and easier communication between individuals.

The breeding season begins with the formation of communal roosts, typically in the upper parts of tall trees. Once they have formed, the birds start excavating nest burrows in the ground, which they will use for breeding.

The birds will typically dig an entrance hole that leads to a chamber, which is lined with feathers, grass, and other materials to form a soft and comfortable nesting area. Once the nest is complete, the female will lay a clutch of 2 to 4 eggs, which are incubated by both parents for around 2 to 3 weeks.

The chicks hatch simultaneously, and both parents take turns to feed and care for them until they fledge at around 3 to 4 weeks old. Demography and Populations:

The Blue-bearded Bee-eater’s population is declining, mainly due to habitat loss and fragmentation across its range.

The bird is also threatened by overhunting, foraging on ground-nesting bees, and other human activities such as logging and urbanization. However, blue-bearded bee-eaters are evaluated as “Least Concern” by the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN), due to its large distribution range, adaptability to different habitats, and stable population in some areas.

Conservation efforts must focus on protecting critical habitat areas, reducing habitat fragmentation, and educating local communities on the importance of conserving the Blue-bearded Bee-eater. Awareness-raising programs and effective conservation strategies can help to protect this unique bird species and facilitate its long-term survival.

In conclusion, the Blue-bearded Bee-eater is a fascinating bird species, known for its unique features, behavior, and vocalization. The bird’s taxonomy and geographic variation have undergone significant changes over time, leading to the recognition of six subspecies, while its distribution has also experienced changes due to various factors.

The bird’s diet and foraging behavior are primarily focused on capturing insects on the wing, which requires high agility and maneuverability. The bird’s breeding behavior involves a communal roosting system, where territorial pairs defend their nesting sites and take care of their young.

Finally, the Blue-bearded Bee-eater’s declining population requires urgent conservation efforts that focus on habitat protection, reducing habitat fragmentation, and educating the public about this unique bird species so that its populations can continue to flourish.

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