Monday, May 3, 2010

Meet the Blue Tailed Bee Eater

     Summer is a busy time for many birds. They are noisier and more active than usual.  The summer months are breeding time for many birds. They are chirping to one another to establish territories and find mates. Then, they fly back and forth from one tree to another to feed, gather nesting materials, and later on to gather for food their young.

perching on a telephone wire
     A summer visitor to Ayala Alabang that is relatively easy to see and observe is the Blue Tailed Bee Eater (Merops philippinus).  It is about 11 ½ inches long and brightly colored. It has a rusty red throat, greenish-yellow belly and chest, olive-green back, long, sky blue tail feathers, and a long thin curved beak. In Pilipino it is known as pirik-pirik. Unlike some birds that are hard to spot because they hide within tree branches, the Blue Tailed Bee Eater is easy to see because it perches on telephone wires and exposed branches. Blue Tailed Bee Eaters often travel in flocks. In Alabang, they have been seen in groups of 8 or 15 or sometimes solo. It is usually their loud “churrp” call that first alerts one to their presence.
it catches insects in mid-air

     As its name implies, the Blue Tailed Bee Eater eats bees. It also eats other flying insects like dragonflies. The Blue Tailed Bee Eater sits on a high perch like a telephone wire, keeping an eye on the flying insects. Then, when it spots its target, it swoops into the air and deftly captures the insect in its beak. It then returns to its perch with the insect. If its prey is a bee with a stinger, it will knock the bee against the perch to remove the stinger before eating the bee.

back on the wire with its prey

     Blue Tailed Bee Eaters are a colorful and beautiful summer visitor to our village. They add to the diversity of wildlife that can be found inside Ayala Alabang. It is wonderful to know that they are welcome here. In other places, such as Tagaytay, commercial beekeepers consider the Blue Tailed Bee Eaters pests. The commercial beekeepers introduced imported European honeybees to the area. These bee colonies attract bee eaters and other bee eating birds which the beekeepers then shoot down to protect their hives! However, shooting bee-eaters that are near a beehive is not only criminal, but also very cruel.  It doesn’t actually do much to protect the bees since they can still get caught and eaten while they are out foraging. Bees can fly up to 3 km away from their hives in search of pollen. Many Bee Eaters are needlessly being killed just to provide businessmen with honey, candles and soap to sell. Thankfully, they are admired and appreciated here!

    Blue Tailed Bee Eaters are not usually seen in Alabang at other times of the year. Last month, they were seen in various parts of the village such as: Champaca corner Country Club Dr., Country Club Drive, Taysan St., Batangas St, and the golf course.

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