Blue-cheeked bee-eater (Merops persicus)

French: Guêpier de Perse
GenusMerops (1)
SizeLength: 27 - 33 cm (2)
Wingspan: 46 - 49 cm (3)
Weight38 - 50 g (3)
Top facts

Classified as Least Concern (LC) on the IUCN Red List (1).

The blue-cheeked bee-eater is named for the blue stripes above and below the eyes, which sometimes, when the plumage is worn, can appear more white than blue (4) (5). More noticeable than these blue 'cheeks’ are the bright green colour of the streamlined body (4), the yellow throat and brown upper breast (2), and the broad black bar that runs across the eyes (4). The blue-cheeked bee-eater also possesses two elongated, central tail feathers (6).

The breeding range of this species extends across parts of northern Africa and southern Asia, from Morocco to eastern Kazakhstan (6). It migrates to southern Africa in the winter, when it can be found from Senegal south to Nigeria in the west, and from Sudan south to South Africa in the east (7).

Across its range, the blue-cheeked bee-eater can be found in forest, savannah, grassland, wetland, desert, coastal and artificial habitats (1). 

Bee-eaters are insectivores, catching insects on the wing during short flights from a nearby hunting perch (4) (6) (8). Bees are common prey, as the name implies, but the blue-cheeked bee-eater also preys on wasps, hornets, dragonflies, beetles, cicadas, locusts and other insects (6) (8) (9).

The blue-cheeked bee-eater breeds in northern parts of Africa and subtropical Asia, from April to June (6). It is a gregarious bird that nests in colonies, and digs a long tunnel in sandy soil that leads to a nesting chamber where the spherical, white eggs are deposited (4) (8). Between four and eight eggs are laid in a clutch and both parents take turns to care for their brood. In some areas, blue-cheeked bee-eaters can be found nesting in mixed colonies, living relatively peacefully alongside the European bee-eater (6).

The large range of the blue-cheeked bee-eater, combined with the lack of any known global threats to this species, means that this species is not currently considered to be threatened with extinction (1).

There are currently no specific conservation measures in place for the blue-cheeked bee-eater.

To learn about bird conservation around the world see:

This information is awaiting authentication by a species expert, and will be updated as soon as possible. If you are able to help please contact:

  1. IUCN Red List (March, 2010)
  2. Newman, K. (2000) Newman’s Birds of Southern Africa. Struik Publishers, Cape Town.
  3. Oiseaux (October, 2009)
  4. Davidson, I. and Sinclair, I. (2006) Southern African Birds: A Photographic Guide. Struik Publishers, Cape Town.
  5. Sinclair, I. and Hockey, P.A.R. (2005) The Larger Illustrated Guide to Birds of Southern Africa. Struik Publishers, Cape Town.
  6. Kossenko, S. and Fry, C. (1998) Competition and coexistence of the European bee-eater Merops apiaster and the blue-cheeked bee-eater Merops persicus in Asia. Ibis, 140: 2-13.
  7. Lewis, A. and Pomeroy, D. (1989) A Bird Atlas of Kenya. A.A.Balkerna, Rotterdam, Netherlands.
  8. Huntley, B., Green, R., Collingham, Y. and Willis, S. (2007) A Climatic Atlas of European Breeding Birds. Durham University, The RSPB and Lynx Edicions, Barcelona.
  9. Robinson, R.A. (2005) BirdFacts: Profiles of Birds Occurring in Britain and Ireland. BTO Research Report 407, BTO, Thetford.