European Bee-eater: life in Germany

BienenfresserEuropean Bee-eater (Merops apiaster) lead a short, eventful life in Germany. The iridescent birds only arrive in our latitudes in the second half of May, and in August they migrate back to the south. In between, they have just enough time to raise their young and prepare them for the long way to the winter quarters. It is important to cross the Sahara or the Arabian Peninsula, as the Bee-eaters winter in the dry areas of East and West Africa. Some of them are even drawn down to South Africa.

The colorful European Bee-eater are a very popular and grateful photo motif. Quite a few nature photographers take a long trip to southern Europe to get European Bee-eaters in front of the lens.

In southern Europe, the colorful birds are quite common due to favorable breeding conditions. My first pictures of European Bee-eaters were also made in Spain, in Trujillo in the Extremadura. The closest densely populated areas from Germany, on the other hand, are in the east, in the Hungarian lowlands. Further pictures of Bee-eaters were taken in the Hungarian Kiskunsági National Park. In the meantime, however, I am no longer dependent on longer trips. In recent years, the stock near my home, the Upper Rhine Valley, has increased significantly. Small and richly structured, climate-friendly landscapes with a diverse insect world are among his preferred habitats here. In steep loess or sand walls, the bird also finds ideal conditions for breeding and raising its young. The later brood area is thoroughly inspected beforehand. In addition to the bee-eater, numerous other interesting bird species can be found in the Rheingau and in the Palatinate such as the European Turtle-Dove (Streptopelia turtur), the Eurasian Hoopoe (Upupa epops) or the Eurasian Wryneck (Jynx torquilla).

The tube is aligned so that the bird can look out of the nest chamber into the open. The main problem that the Bee-eater is struggling with in this country is that they do not use caves once they have been used. Small sand pits, hollow paths or break-off edges are “used up” so quickly, and the local occurrence of the European Bee-eatercan quickly go out as soon as there are no opportunities to create new breeding caves. Larger, natural cliffs or loess walls are, however, less available year after year. Stabilizing the Bee-eater populations in the country would therefore be one more reason not to fill abandoned sand ditches with garbage or water.

Some time after returning from the winter quarters, in early June, the male European Bee-eater goes on a bridal show. The Bee-eater male uses its hunting skills to woo the female. The male performs elegant movements and brings her prey as a gift. It courts the female and offers him food as a bridal gift. The copulations can extend until the last egg is layed. The couple then start building the breeding tube together. They dig the narrow tube on steep slopes of loess, clay or solidified sand, which ends up in a brood chamber after up to two meters. The couple excavates five to seven kilograms of material out of the cave. If the two birds are unlucky and encounter a solid obstacle, they start their work again at another site. The birds dig through the soil for a week or two. Due to the strenuous digging work, their beaks have often become a little shorter. But the length of the beak grows back quickly.

Five to seven young hatch at the end of June. After the young hatch, there are often male nannies ready to help the stressed-out parents stuff their hungry beaks. It is believed that these godparents are one year old males who still live as singles. The stuffy climate in the cave is obviously good for the boy. After about twelve days, they crawl around the cave independently and reach the cave entrance. They now appear again and again at the cave entrance for feeding. They have to stand in line as there is only space for one in the narrow tube. When a cub is stuffed, it resigns and it is the turn of the next. If one does not want to withdraw, the foremost is plucked by the hungry siblings on the tail feathers to make room for a change of place. The insect’s indigestible chitin shells are spewed out and finally form a centimeter thick layer in the brood chamber.

After some time, the young venture outside for the first time. They have now  a maximum of three weeks to acquire the necessary flying skills.

In order to meet the growing demand for top images of the rarer species of Palaearctic has specifically made trips to remote places. Additionally every chance is used, if a rare bird is around the homeground. This to do everything to ensure excellent photos of the Birds of the Western Palearctic . The yield of pictures also of rare Western Palaearctic birds is very good. There are other nice images of birds, that you will find behind the tab “Picture Shop“. Just give a notice if you need a picture of a bird which is not online.

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