1029. Merops apiaster.
The European Bee-eater.
Merops apiaster, Linn. Syst. Nat. i, p. 182 (1766) ; Blyth, Cat. p. 52; Adams, P. Z. S. 1858, p. 474; Jerdon, B. I. i, p. 210; id. Ibis, 1872, p. 3 ; Murray, S. F, vii, p. 113; Hume, Cat. no. 121; Wardl.-Ramsay, Ibis, 1880, p. 49; Barnes, S. F. ix, pp. 215, 453 ; Biddulph, Ibis, 1881, p. 48; Barnes, Birds Bom. p. 95; St. John, Ibis, 1889, p. 157 ; Oates in Hume's N. & E. 2nd ed. iii, p. 66; Sharpe, Cat. B. M. xvii, p. 63.
Coloration. Forehead white, followed by an indistinct line of verditer-blue passing into green, that is continued on each side as a supercilium; a black line including the lores and ear-coverts and passing under the eye; crown, hind neck, and upper back chestnut, darkest on the head and passing into pale yellowish brown, weathering in worn plumage to buff on the lower back and rump, paler still on the scapulars; secondary-coverts and quills chestnut; primary-coverts and primary and tertiary quills bluish green, all quills except the tertiaries tipped black; upper tail-coverts bluish green; tail-feathers bronze-green above, the slightly elongate median pair tipped black, all blackish beneath; chin and throat rich yellow, followed by a black gorget; breast, abdomen, and under tail-coverts greenish blue, paler behind; wing-lining buff.
Bill black ; iris red ; legs and feet brown.
Length about 10.5 ; tail 4 to 5, outer rectrices 3.5 ; wing 5.75 ; tarsus .55 ; bill from gape 1.7.
Distribution. A migratory bird, wintering in Africa, and perhaps in Southern Arabia, and breeding in summer in Southern Europe and Central Asia. Within Indian limits this Bee-eater breeds in Kashmir and probably in Afghanistan, and has been observed when migrating in the N.W. Punjab, Baluchistan, and on one occasion in Sind.
Habits, &c. Those of the genus. This and other large Bee-eaters keep more on the wing than M. viridis and feed on various' insects, chiefly bees and wasps. M. apiaster breeds in Kashmir during May and June, and lays 4 to 7 eggs (6 being a common number) in a chamber at the end of a deep hole. The eggs are white and glossy, and measure about 1.08 by .9.