Little bee eaters are poseurs. I think they love having their photographs taken. True, they will fly off if you drive up and screech to a halt, sending up a cloud of dust. But if you keep still and quiet, they will often return to the branch where they were when you first saw them. A good perch is difficult to give up, you understand.
Like it says on the tin, little bee eaters are the smallest of the bee eating family. They have a long black beak to catch flying insects. They have a Zorro-style black mask, with big red eyes and a hint of blue eye shadow. The rest of the head and back is green. A black chinstrap sits below the yellow neck. The belly is khaki yellow.
They can swivel their heads in every direction to look for prey or predators. Watching them do this reminds me of the upper gun turret on a World War 2 Lancaster bomber.
Their aerial agility is remarkable. They leave the perch, pluck a juicy fly out of the air and land back on their spot all in one smooth movement. It is as though they have an elastic leash which pulls them back to the branch.
I saw these two beauties coming back from the Luangwa Wafwa, a lagoon which situated at the site of a previous course of the river. It is a great place to see birdlife.
White-fronted bee eaters are about half as big again as little bee eaters. Apart from the size, the main distinguishing feature is a blood red gash across the throat. I watched a colony of white-fronted bee eaters swirling around the sandy cliffs of the Luangwa River, where they make their homes in small holes. They were flying in pairs, dipping to the surface of the river and shimmying together. I guessed that this was mating behaviour.
I saw another flock of white-fronted taking a dust bath in a track, running parallel to the river. Unfortunately, I cannot upload video footage from YouTube as my current internet connection won’t stand for it. I did capture this gang of three sitting together watching the world of flies, flying by.