Chestnut-headed Bee-eater – nest building and cooperative breeding?

on 5th March 2014

“The Chestnut-headed Bee-eaters (Merops leschenaulti) are the favourite bee-eaters for my wife and myself (above). They are friendly, visit our home twice a day (non breeding season) and have a delightful personality.

“Was out today and came across two different nesting sites 0.5 km apart (above). One had 4 nesting holes, the other 6. All were either freshly constructed or in the process of construction.

“Recent prior observations of nesting holes in my region suggests that nesting holes are often constructed around December to February:

27th January 2009 (Feeding young in holes)
21st March 2010 (Feeding young in holes)
25th December 2010 (Nest building)
12th February 2011 (Feeding young in holes)
13th February 2011 (Nest building)

“Nest construction was carried out by one bird with the other playing a watching (security) role from a nearby perch or on the ground beside it (above, below).

“Notice the bird on the right has the classical mature dark tip to the wing primaries but that the ‘partner’ does not and looks immature, like a first year bird. Even the tail is not as well developed. Most of the work in nest building was done by the mature bird, with the other observing or doing ‘watch out’ duty.

“Bee-eaters in general are known to exhibit cooperative breeding with non-breeding individuals helping ‘family members’ and assist to build nests and raise their brood. I am not aware of this behaviour documented in Chestnut-headed Bee-eaters. So I am uncertain if this is cooperative breeding with a 1st year (ex-child) supporting the new nest or this mature adult has taken a 1st year as a mate.”

Dato’ Dr Amar-Singh HSS
Ipoh, Perak, Malaysia
9th January 2014

Location: Tambun Interior, Perak, Malaysia
Habitat: Fish farming, ex-mining pools, limestone hills nearby

If you like this post please tap on the Like button at the left bottom of page. Any views and opinions expressed in this article are solely those of the authors/contributors, and are not endorsed by the Lee Kong Chian Natural History Museum (LKCNHM, NUS) or its affiliated institutions. Readers are encouraged to use their discretion before making any decisions or judgements based on the information presented.

YC Wee

Dr Wee played a significant role as a green advocate in Singapore through his extensive involvement in various organizations and committees: as Secretary and Chairman for the Malayan Nature Society (Singapore Branch), and with the Nature Society (Singapore) as founding President (1978-1995). He has also served in the Nature Reserve Board (1987-1989), Nature Reserves Committee (1990-1996), National Council on the Environment/Singapore Environment Council (1992-1996), Work-Group on Nature Conservation (1992) and Inter-Varsity Council on the Environment (1995-1997). He is Patron of the Singapore Gardening Society and was appointed Honorary Museum Associate of the Lee Kong Chian Natural History Museum (LKCNHM) in 2012. In 2005, Dr Wee started the Bird Ecology Study Group. With more than 6,000 entries, the website has become a valuable resource consulted by students, birdwatchers and researchers locally and internationally. The views and opinions expressed in this article are his own, and do not represent those of LKCNHM, the National University of Singapore or its affiliated institutions.

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