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White-fronted Bee-eater

Merops bullockoides
Today's feature is the White-fronted Bee-eater, a bird found all throughout the Savannahs of Africa. They are identified by their white foreheads, black masks, brilliantly red throats and bright green wings. And as their name suggests, they feed on bees and other flying insects.

White-fronted Bee-eaters are not only very pretty birds, they are also very socially interesting birds-- they have one of the most complex family-based social structures of all our feathered friends.

The Bee-eaters lived in colonies that can number up to 200 individuals. These colonies have large territories that can spread over several kilometers, but they have central roosting sites comprised of holes dug into the earth for use in resting and breeding.

Within these colonies are monogamous family groups called clans, led by a single breeding pair and their numerous, non-breeding family members. These helpers (which may be siblings of the parents, adult offspring, or even in some cases completely unrelated birds) contribute greatly to the raising of offspring that are not their own. They assist in nest building, they bring food to the mother, and they even incubate and feed the young! All in all, about half of all nesting attempts have assistance from helpers!

IUCN Status : Least Concern
Location : Africa
Size : Body Length around 9in (23cm)
Classification : Phylum : Chordata -- Class : Aves -- Order : Coraciiformes
Family : Meropidae -- Genus : Merops -- Species : M. bullockoides

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