23rd of May 2014 – Species Spotlight Carmine Bee-Eater

It is cold, ark and wet today so to cheer myself up I’m going to spotlight one of our more colourful and active birds
Carmine Bee-Eater
Merops nubicus
Carmine Bee Eater 7 150x150 - 23rd of May 2014 - Species Spotlight Carmine Bee-Eater
We keep the Northern Race of the Carmines, who are native to much of central Africa, with the Southern race found further south.  They tend to be found in areas of savannah, river and open areas.  They avoid areas of woodland and forest.  The wild population is of least concern and numbers are steady.  Threats include intensified farming and the use of pesticides.
As with all Bee Eaters, Carmines are elaborately coloured, with the name coming from the Carmine colour that runs up the chest and is unusual in the bird world.  The head, throat and tail are greeny blue.  Sexes are alike in appearance.
The natural diet is made up of insects of various types, which they take on the wing.  As the name suggests, they are more than capable of dealing with bees, rubbing out the sting on branches.  They are often found following Locust swarms and will also use large game herds as ‘beaters’ stirring up insects as they move through the grasslands.
Nesting occurs in huge colonies and nests are excavated by both birds into a bank.  Nests tunnels are narrow and long (sometimes up to 7 metres). The female will lay between 2 and 5 eggs and the male will share incubation duties.  Hatching occurs after roughly 3 weeks and fledging 23-30 days after hatch.
Carmine Bee Eater 6 150x150 - 23rd of May 2014 - Species Spotlight Carmine Bee-Eater
We currently house 3 Carmine Bee Eaters in our Desert House, 1 pair and an unsexed bird.  They are fed daily on mealworms & crickets and can catch any flies that stray in.  In the Summer we trap a lot of wasps around the park and these are released for the birds to catch, which is a great spectacle as they are so aerobatic.
Breeding has yet to occur, we have got a fake sand bank in place with nest chambers that are filled with sand for the birds to excavate.  One female died a couple of years ago and the post mortem showed she was carrying an egg.
In news this week:
The Snowy Owls are up to at least 3 eggs, we don’t know for sure how many she has as she is sat tight and getting grumpy
The Zebra Finches have at least one chick
The Splendid Parakeet chick is doing well
The Avocets continue to build scrapes but no eggs as yet
The Southern Lapwings also have a nest scrape
2 new Humboldt Penguins arrived all the way from Zlin, in the Czech Republic.  There will be more details about them soon but they are currently serving a period of quarantine off show
czech birds 8 150x150 - 23rd of May 2014 - Species Spotlight Carmine Bee-Eater
More arrivals are scheduled for next week so watch this space.
Wildlife wise the highlight of the week was a great spot by a member of the public who saw 4 recently fledged Tawny Owls in Marshmouth
Tawny Owl 150x150 - 23rd of May 2014 - Species Spotlight Carmine Bee-Eater
Thanks for reading

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