Blue-throated Bee-eaters and dragonflies

Blue-throated Bee-eaters (Merops viridis) catch dragonflies on the wing (above), with the latter twisting and turning in the air when chased and the former trying very hard to manoeuvre likewise. The chase sometimes looks like a dogfight between two warring fighter planes – one large and the other small. Frequently the dragonfly escapes. After all, dragonflies usually also hunt on the wing and have the skills to do so.

The dragonfly is usually caught at the thorax, where the insect is thickest (below left, right). It is then brought back to the perch where it is subdued and eaten, a habit very similar to that of the prey. The bird usually tosses the dragonfly in the air to position it for swallowing head first (below middle).


Dragonflies are reasonably large insects with prominent wings that give an audible clatter when flying. They have a large head and two equally large compound eyes. They thus make excellent subjects for photographers, especially when they are captured and manipulated by the long pointed bill of bee-eaters.

Photo credits: Lee Tiah Khee (top); Dr Jonathan Cheah Weng Kwong (bottom left), James Wong (bottom middle); Joseph Yao (bottom right).

Lee Tiah Khee, Dr Jonathan Cheah Weng Kwong, James Wong & Joseph Yao
October 2008

This post is a cooperative effort between and BESG to bring the study of bird behaviour through photography to a wider audience.

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