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Species Guide
A photo of a Northern Carmine Bee-eater (Merops nubicus)
Northern Carmine Bee-eater

Northern Carmine Bee-eater

Merops nubicus

The Northern Carmine Bee-eater, Merops nubicus, presents a dazzling spectacle with its vibrant carmine plumage, contrasted by a greenish-blue head and throat, and a distinctive black facial mask. The eyes of this slender bird are red, and it boasts a black, pointed, and decurved beak. Adding to its elegance are the elongated central tail feathers that trail behind in flight.

Identification Tips

Adults of both sexes are similar in appearance, with the juveniles distinguishable by their absence of elongated central tail feathers and a pinkish-brown hue on their mantle, chest, belly, and flanks. Observers should note the bird's red eyes and the striking coloration for accurate identification.


These bee-eaters favor habitats near riverbanks, where they can nest in large colonies on cliffs, taking advantage of the soft substrate to excavate their nesting tunnels.


The Northern Carmine Bee-eater graces a wide range of northern tropical Africa, from Senegal eastwards to Somalia, Ethiopia, and Kenya. It has also been recorded as a vagrant in Burundi.



Breeding colonies of this species can range from a few nests to hundreds. They exhibit fidelity to nesting sites, often returning for several years before relocating. Their nests, which are long horizontal tunnels dug into cliffs, accumulate insect remains and emit a strong ammonia scent. Each clutch typically consists of three to five eggs.


A diet primarily composed of bees and other flying insects such as flying ants, grasshoppers, and locusts sustains the Northern Carmine Bee-eater. They employ a sit-and-wait strategy, perching to keep a lookout for prey and then capturing insects mid-flight with their beaks.

Song & Calls

The vocalizations include a deep, throaty 'tunk' when in flight and a series of 'rik' notes while perched, adding an auditory delight to their visual splendor.

Conservation status

The IUCN Red List categorizes the Northern Carmine Bee-eater as Least Concern, indicating a stable population without significant immediate threats to its survival.

Northern Carmine Bee-eater Sounds

Recorded by: © 
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