Blue-throated Bee-eater – prey and calls

I was watching a pair of adult Blue-throated Bee-eaters (Merops viridis) doing aerial sallies to catch insects; they usually return to the same perch with the prey. One of the birds suddenly took off for a location 30-35 meters away and caught a butterfly; I was impressed with the visual spotting capabilities. The partner gave chase hoping for a bite but it was not shared. Although they usually take bees and dragonflies, I have seen Bee-eaters take butterfly prey occasionally, especially when feeding young. The butterfly taken on this occasion is most likely the Yellow Archduke (Lexias canescens pardalina) (below).

I managed to document some calls – a call recording is located here: Calls are given both while perched and in the air. There is considerable variation in how calls are used and mixed.

The commonest call’s sonogram and waveform is shown below. It is a fast call given singly or in a run of 2-4 notes. Wells (1999) describes it as ‘terrip-terrip’.

The other call in the recording is much softer and extended (5-10 notes). Wells (1999) describes it as ‘trrurrip’. Sonogram and waveform is shown above. The two sonograms show that these two calls are very distinctly different. The first call is a contact call (above) while the second is more communicative, almost a ‘begging or pleading-like’ quality (below).


Amar-Singh HSS (Dato’ Dr)

Ipoh, Perak, Malaysia


Location: Kledang-Sayong Forest Reserve, Ipoh, Perak, Malaysia

Habitat: Forest edge

Date: 17th August 2020

Equipment: Equipment: Nikon D500 SLR with Nikon AF-S Nikkor 500mm f/5.6E PF ED VR, handheld with Rode VideoMic Pro Plus Shotgun Microphone



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