Monday, 11 July 2011

Bee-eater update

We usually see our first Bee-eaters back here in the Algarve during the third week of March. This year they were a few days later than that with the first ones seen on the 24th.

Of course it was a while after that before we began seeing birds regularly and before they began sorting out nesting territories in the local colony. By the second half of April they were busy excavating nest holes, a task that both sexes work at. The nest is in an enlarged chamber at the end of a tunnel that is typically a metre or so long - not surprising then that it can take as long as three weeks to complete! It’s tough work and the muddy beaks seen on the birds we photographed in mid-May show that work was still in progress then.

We would guess that by the end of May they had eggs – a clutch of six is typical. We’ve never seen any but, as with most hole-nesting species, they’re said to be glossy and white. Incubation starts with the first egg so that hatching is asynchronous. The incubation period is roughly three weeks.

Right now they are busy feeding their young ones with a variety of insects that certainly includes a few bees but also dragonflies and various others. They no longer have to enter the nest hole, instead they are greeted at the mouth of the tunnel by the open beak of a hungry offspring! Very soon they will be fledging.

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