Thought to be a monogamous bird (3), the little green bee-eater usually lays a clutch of four to eight eggs between March and June, although some will lay as late as August (2).
The eggs are laid in an egg chamber that lies at the end of a tunnel (9). The nesting tunnel, which is excavated by both the male and female (2) (9), can measure up to two metres long (9) and is dug into flat, bare ground or into a gently sloping bank (3). Little green bee-eater nest holes are typically arranged in loose colonies of 10 to 30 pairs (3).
The male and female little green bee-eaters take turns to incubate the eggs during the two week incubation period, and both adults also provide food for the young (2). In some parts of this species' range, the nesting pair will recruit the help of one or more individuals to assist in feeding the chicks and protecting the nest site. These ‘helper birds’ are more common in times of drought, when food is scarce and the chance that helpers can successfully raise a brood themselves are slim (10) (11). The young birds typically fledge between 26 and 28 days after hatching (9).
The little green bee-eater forages either alone or in small parties of 15 to 20 individuals (7). From a perch on a fence, low bush, or sometimes even on cattle, the little green bee-eater takes rapid flight after an insect, seizing its prey and returning to the perch, where it strikes the insect to kill it before devouring it. As its name suggests, the little green bee-eater prefers to prey upon bees, but will also take other insects such as fruit flies and grasshoppers (12).
The little green bee-eater is a fairly gregarious bird, with up to 30 birds roosting closely together on a branch, and up to 20 congregating to dust bathe together (3). Dust bathing is believed to help the bird dislodge harmful parasites and remove excess oil from its feathers (13).
The little green bee-eater exhibits a particular predator-avoidance behaviour that distinguishes it from many other species. If a potential predator is looking at the little green bee-eater’s nest, it will not enter until the predator has looked away. This remarkable behaviour demonstrates that the little green bee-eater aware of where the predator is looking, but also suggests it is aware of the predator’s mental state. This awareness, known as ‘theory of mind’, is typically only exhibited by humans and a few other primate species (14) (15).