Olive bee-eater

From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

Olive bee-eater
Scientific classification Edit this classification
Domain: Eukaryota
Kingdom: Animalia
Phylum: Chordata
Class: Aves
Order: Coraciiformes
Family: Meropidae
Genus: Merops
M. superciliosus
Binomial name
Merops superciliosus
Linnaeus, 1766

The olive bee-eater or Madagascar bee-eater (Merops superciliosus) is a near passerine bee-eater species in the genus Merops. It is native to the southern half of Africa where it is present in Angola; Botswana; Burundi; Comoros; Democratic Republic of the Congo; Djibouti; Eritrea; Ethiopia; Kenya; Madagascar; Malawi; Mayotte; Mozambique; Namibia; Rwanda; Somalia; South Sudan; Sudan; Tanzania; Uganda; Zambia; Zimbabwe. It is a common species with a wide range so the International Union for Conservation of Nature has rated their conservation status as "least concern".[1]


In 1760 the French zoologist Mathurin Jacques Brisson included a description of the olive bee-eater in his Ornithologie based on a specimen collected on the island of Madagascar. He used the French name Le guespier de Madagascar and the Latin Apiaster Madagascariensis.[2] Although Brisson coined Latin names, these do not conform to the binomial system and are not recognised by the International Commission on Zoological Nomenclature.[3] When in 1766 the Swedish naturalist Carl Linnaeus updated his Systema Naturae for the twelfth edition, he added 240 species that had been previously described by Brisson.[3] One of these was the olive bee-eater. Linnaeus included a brief description, coined the current binomial name Merops superciliosus and cited Brisson's work.[4] The specific name superciliosus is Latin for "supercilious", "haughty" or "eye-browed".[5]

Two subspecies are recognised:[6]

  • M. s. superciliosus Linnaeus, 1766 – east Africa, Madagascar and the Comoro Islands
  • M. s. alternans Clancey, 1971 – west Angola and northwest Namibia


The olive bee-eater grows to a length of 23 to 26 cm (9.1 to 10.2 in) with its tail streamers adding up to 7 cm (2.8 in). The sexes are similar, and adults have bronzy-green plumage with an olive cap and white forehead, eyebrows, chin and cheeks. The rump and tail are blue, apart from the streamers, which are black.[7]


The olive bee-eater is found in the grassland and coastal mountain forests of East Africa and Madagascar, and an isolated population can be found in coastal Angola.[8] There are two subspecies; M. s. superciliosus occurs in eastern Ethiopia, Somalia and Kenya, and southwards through East Africa to southern Mozambique and the Zambezi Valley, as well as the Comoro Islands and Madagascar; M. s. alternans occurs in western Angola and northwestern Namibia.[9]


They are partially migratory, and usually breed only in the southern portion of their range, moving north for the dry season in southern Africa. It lays four eggs in a burrow nest at the beginning of the southern African wet season, and the chicks usually hatch at the beginning of December.[10] Unlike most bee-eaters, the species does not practice cooperative breeding and post-fledging dependence is only around 19 days, which is typical of temperate zone passerines and about half that of most Meropidae species.[11]



  1. ^ a b BirdLife International (2016). "Merops superciliosus". IUCN Red List of Threatened Species. 2016: e.T22683744A92998077. doi:10.2305/IUCN.UK.2016-3.RLTS.T22683744A92998077.en. Retrieved 12 November 2021.
  2. ^ Brisson, Mathurin Jacques (1760). Ornithologie, ou, Méthode contenant la division des oiseaux en ordres, sections, genres, especes & leurs variétés (in French and Latin). Vol. 4. Paris: Jean-Baptiste Bauche. pp. 545–549, Plate 42 fig 1. The two stars (**) at the start of the section indicates that Brisson based his description on the examination of a specimen.
  3. ^ a b Allen, J.A. (1910). "Collation of Brisson's genera of birds with those of Linnaeus". Bulletin of the American Museum of Natural History. 28: 317–335. hdl:2246/678.
  4. ^ Linnaeus, Carl (1766). Systema naturae : per regna tria natura, secundum classes, ordines, genera, species, cum characteribus, differentiis, synonymis, locis (in Latin). Vol. 1, Part 1 (12th ed.). Holmiae (Stockholm): Laurentii Salvii. p. 183.
  5. ^ Jobling, J.A. (2018). del Hoyo, J.; Elliott, A.; Sargatal, J.; Christie, D.A.; de Juana, E. (eds.). "Key to Scientific Names in Ornithology". Handbook of the Birds of the World Alive. Lynx Edicions. Retrieved 6 July 2018.
  6. ^ Gill, Frank; Donsker, David, eds. (2018). "Todies, motmots, bee-eaters, hoopoes, wood hoopoes, hornbills". World Bird List Version 8.2. International Ornithologists' Union. Retrieved 6 July 2018.
  7. ^ Fry, C. Hilary; Fry, Kathie (2010). Kingfishers, Bee-eaters and Rollers. Bloomsbury Publishing. p. 273. ISBN 978-1-4081-3525-9.
  8. ^ "Range map". IUCN. Retrieved 16 October 2016.
  9. ^ Fry, H.; Boesman, P. (2016). "Olive Bee-eater (Merops superciliosus)". Handbook of the Birds of the World Alive. Lynx Edicions, Barcelona. Retrieved 16 October 2016.
  10. ^ "Madagascar Bee-eater, Olive Bee-eater". Biodiversity Explorer. Iziko. Retrieved 16 October 2016.
  11. ^ Langen, Tom A. (2000). "Prolonged offspring dependence and cooperative breeding in birds". Behavioral Ecology. 11 (4): 367–377. doi:10.1093/beheco/11.4.367.

External links[edit]