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Award of Excellence
Jozsef L. Szentpeteri
National Geographic Magazine

"Bee Eaters"

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European Bee-eater (Merops apiaster) has a unique breeding strategy, which might help to understand migratory birds worldwide: part of their world population migrates year by year to Europe from South Africa to breed. The other part stay and breed in Africa. Revolutionary strategy is successful: even with the wastage of migration, they can produce more offspring than the population, which stays in Africa. It is partially because of predators, but mostly of parasites in the nests. It seems to be an acceptable theory that such (and similar) pressure made many bird species to migrate year by year, season by season throughout the World.
This species is threatened by many issues. They are traditionally nesting in the vertical banks of riversides. However, the river control in Europe, which caused the loss of natural breeding sites, made them to move to sand mines, many times far from any water. These sand mines turn to be illegal refuse dumps most of the time, especially in Eastern Europe. Insecticides, used frequently in agriculture, reduced their source of food, because they are feeding on flying insects exclusively. Moreover, they are mostly feed on bees and bumblebees, which cause special conflicts with apiarists, who try to obliterate the populations close to their hives.

European Bee-eater carries a mid-air-caught butterfly to its nest. Bee-eaters feed mostly on stinged insects (bees, bumblebees, hornets), but are able to catch any flying insects between 5-50mm length in bodysize.



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