Wild Birds

Little Bee-eater

Little Bee-eater (Merops pusillus)

The Little Bee-eater, Merops pusillus, is a near passerine bird in the bee-eater family Meropidae.

Little Bee-eater Perched on a Thorm
Little Bee-eater Perched on a Thorm

Distribution / Range

It is resident in much of sub-Saharan Africa. It should not be confused with the Little Green Bee-eater, Merops orientalis. Migration is limited to seasonal movements depending on rainfall patterns.

This is an abundant and tame bird, familiar throughout its range. There have been estimated to be between 60-80 million Little Bee-eaters.

These birds roost communally, lined up on a branch.


This species, like other bee-eaters, is a richly colored, slender bird. It has green upperparts, yellow throat, black gorget, and rich brown upper breast fading to buffish ocre on the belly. The wings are green and brown, and the beak is black.

It reaches a length of 15-17 cm, which makes it the smallest African bee-eater.

Sexes are alike.

Breeding / Nesting

This is a bird that breeds in open country with bushes, preferably near water. Unlike most bee-eaters, these are solitary nesters, making a tunnel in sandy banks, or sometimes in the entrance to an Aardvark den.

They lay 4 to 6 spherical white eggs. Both the male and the female take care of the eggs.

Pair of Little Bee-eater Perched on a Tree
Pair of Little Bee-eaters Perched on a Tree

Diet / Feeding

Just as the name suggests, bee-eaters predominantly eat insects, especially bees, wasps and hornets, which are caught in the air by sorties from an open perch.

This species often hunts from low perches, maybe only a metre or less high.

Before eating its meal, a bee-eater removes the sting by repeatedly hitting the insect on a hard surface.

Calls / Vocalization

Often silent, their call is a soft “seep”.


Gordon Ramel

Gordon is an ecologist with two degrees from Exeter University. He's also a teacher, a poet and the owner of 1,152 books. Oh - and he wrote this website.

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