Blue-throated Bee-eater catches a butterfly and ignores another

on 4th August 2016

Most photographs of bee-eaters show them catching and manipulating a dragonfly for swallowing. Others show them with a bee between their mandibles.

BeeEaterBlTh-BluePansy [JWee]

Johnny Wee’s image of a Blue-throated Bee-eater (Merops viridis) feeding a Blue Pansy (Junonia orithya wallacei) butterfly to its mate is thus an uncommon documentation (above).

BeeEaterBlTh-TawnyCoster [JWee]

Johnny’s other image (above) shows another Blue-throated Bee-eater simply ignoring a Tawny Coster (Acraea terpsicore) butterfly as it flew by.

Khew Sin Khoon of Butterfly Circle confirmed the identifications of the two butterflies. He added that the Tawny Coster “is known to display aposematic colouration and is distasteful to birds due to its caterpillar host plants from the Passifloraceae family. Unless you have evidence of a bee-eater with the Tawny Coster in its beak, you cannot assume that the bird will eventually eat the butterfly – see HERE. He further added that such butterflies are “distasteful to predators like birds, giving them a better chance of survival” and that “birds are somehow smart enough to avoid these distasteful species.”

Johnny Wee & Khew Sin Khoon
24th July 2016

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.

Other posts by YC Wee

One Response

  1. Dear Johnny, great documentation.
    Regarding this comment “Blue-throated Bee-eater …. feeding a Blue Pansy butterfly to its mate ..”.
    1. I wonder if you have more images of the bird on the right, the “mate”?
    2. Although it has adult streamers the plumage is immature.
    3. Could be an adult feeding an immature bird.
    Kindly consider.

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