European bee-eater

    European bee-eater

    Merops apiaster

Castilian: Abejaruco europeo

Catalan: Abellerol

Gallego: Abellaruco

Euskera: Erlatxoria


Orden: Coraciiformes

Family: Meropidae

Migratory status: Summer resident


On the National List of Threatened Species, it appears in the “Of Special Interest” category. In the 2004 edition of the Red Book of Spanish Birds (Libro Rojo de las Aves de España) it is listed as “Not Evaluated”.

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Large colonies have been lost due to disturbances caused by tourism and urbanisation and by insecticides and direct extermination by beekeepers.

Length / size: 27-29 cm / 44-49 cm

Identification: This bird is characterised by its eye-catching combination of colours. Reds, yellows and greens predominate on its back, while its underparts are greenish and bluish. Its yellow throat is bordered by a lower line and a black facial disc; the irises of its eyes are red, and it has a long, curved bill and its tail is also long, especially the two middle feathers.

Song: It makes a booming "pee-pee-pee-prroot" sound, which it repeats frequently.

Diet: It primarily feeds on wasps, large flies, dragonflies and bees that it catches in flight; sometimes it goes to beehives, creating conflicts with beekeepers.

Reproduction: It begins in April. Both adults build the nest, digging a tunnel that becomes narrower and ends in a wide chamber; the digging is done with its bill, and it uses its legs to remove the leftover sand. Both are in charge of incubation and feeding the chicks. The eggs hatch asynchronously, in such a way that a hierarchy is established when feeding, which implies that the chicks' survival is conditioned upon the availability of food.


It occupies open areas with scattered trees, where there are gullies, banks, or sandy vertical walls where it can nest. It can also appear in abandoned quarries, on the sides of motorways, or places where there is a slight difference in elevation (of less than one metre).


In Spain: It is distributed throughout the entire peninsula, except for the Cantabrian region, the Pyrenees and Galicia.

In Castile and León: It is distributed throughout the entire community, but is less abundant in the Cantabrian Mountains.

Movements and migrations: It is a trans-Saharan migratory species that winters in tropical Africa. In mid-August it abandons its European breeding areas, and returns in March or April of the following year.


In Spain: There is an estimated population of at least 100000 breeding pairs.

In Castile and León: There is an estimated population of at least 12000 breeding pairs.