Photo Blog: Southern Carmine Bee-eaters Return to Zambia

June 30, 2019

Next month, Zambia will once again see the arrival of thousands of winged beauties that annually paint the sky, bushes and riverbanks of the South Luangwa in dazzling pinks, greens and blues – these are the southern carmine bee-eaters.

Journeys Discovering Africa, Southern carmine bee-eaters, Zambia, South Luangwa, Birding safari

© Patrick Shah

Every year, for about three months starting in mid-August, southern carmine bee-eaters flock to the South Luangwa National Park to breed and rear their young. They migrate to this beautifully remote part of Zambia – along with wilderness areas in Zimbabwe and Botswana – from Mozambique, before spending the height of summer in South Africa and then flying north to the rainforests of equatorial Africa.

Journeys Discovering Africa, Southern carmine bee-eaters, Zambia, South Luangwa, Birding safari

© Patrick Shah

In Zambia, it is on the clay banks of the Luangwa River where they choose to nest. They hollow out burrows of about one to two metres deep in the steep riverbanks for their nests. As this impressively large colony of birds busy themselves at their riverside bungalows, the air is filled with noise and colour, making for a birding safari spectacle!

Journeys Discovering Africa, Southern carmine bee-eaters, Zambia, South Luangwa, Birding safari

© Patrick Shah

Females will eat calcium-rich foods, such as snail shells, during the breeding season in order to produce stronger and healthier eggs. Generally, the top choice of food for southern carmine bee-eaters are, of course, bees as well as termites, cicadas, dragonflies, butterflies and locusts. Upon catching a bee, the bird will take up its perch where it will smash the unlucky insect into the branch to remove the toxic stinger before eating it.

Journeys Discovering Africa, Southern carmine bee-eaters, Zambia, South Luangwa, Birding safari

© Patrick Shah

Southern carmine bee-eaters use a special hunting technique called hawking. They will launch themselves from a perch, catch an insect in mid-air and return to a perched position. They are drawn to bush fires where they can be seen circling above the flames, catching those insects flushed out of from the burning undergrowth.

Journeys Discovering Africa, Southern carmine bee-eaters, Zambia, South Luangwa, Birding safari

© Patrick Shah

Zambia and its Southern African counterparts are fantastic birding safari destinations where you can tick off many resident and migratory ‘specials’. Why not chat to us about tailoring a safari that meets your particular interests.


Posted by tfhadmin


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