1529. Alcemerops athertoni

(1529) Alcemerops athertoni (Jard. & Selby).
Bucia athertoni, Fauna B. I., Birds, 2nd ed. vol. iv, p. 242.
Alcemerops athertoni, ibid. vol. viii, p. 677.
This fine Bee-eater occurs in the Lower Himalayas from Kuman to Eastern Assam, extreme Eastern Bengal and the whole of hill Burma to Tenasserim. East it is found in Siam. It also occurs on the South-West coast of India from Travancore to Belgaum and in Sambalpore.
This is entirely a forest bird, often frequenting very deep forest of lofty trees, at all elevations from the foot-hills up to some 5,000 feet.
The only correct account of its breeding recorded in Hume’s 'Nests and Eggs' is that of Bingham, who describes the capture of a female bird on its four eggs, laid in a chamber at the end of a 7-foot tunnel cut in a sandy bank of the Meplay stream.
* Alcemerops I, Geoff, St. Hilaire, Nouv. Ann. Mus. Hist. Nat. Paris, vol. i, p. 395, 1832 (pub, August 1833), antedates Bucia Hodgs. J. A. S. B, vol. v, p, 360, 1866, and must therefore be used.
Whymper obtained eggs in the Kuman and Nepal Terai from very deep burrows, 7 or 8 feet, cut in the sandy banks of ravines in forest.
In the Southern Assam bills the birds were comparatively common and we found many nests. The ones occupied were, however, not easy to locate, as the birds seem to employ their spare time in digging unnecessary tunnels which are deserted as soon as dug. Their favourite nesting sites in these hills were the banks of the jungle-tracks leading through tree-forest, and it was rarely we found one in the banks of small streams or ravines. They breed singly, and never in colonies, but within a space of a very few yards I have seen as many as a dozen or twenty burrows, all but one of which were nothing but the result of wasted energy. No nest is made but, even before the eggs are laid, the birds sleep in the nest and take much of their insect-food into it for consumption. The cock bird also seems to feed the hen a great deal when she is sitting. The consequence is that by the time the full clutch of eggs is laid there is a considerable collection of insect debris. We found the easiest way to ascertain if the nest was in use was to insert a long wand with a splayed tip, twist it about and then pull it out again. When there were eggs the wand would disturb the bird if sitting and, if not, it would pull out the insect remains.
The tunnels are very long, seldom less than 5 feet and often 6 to 8, while in diameter they are about 3.1/2 or 3.3/4 inches. The chamber is about 8 inches wide and long and about 5 inches high.
The breeding season is April and May, but I have taken eggs from February to August, while Davidson obtained a clutch in Kanara in March.
The full clutch is almost invariably six, rarely five only, and when I have opened tunnels with young there always seemed to be six of them.
Fifty eggs average 30.0 x 28.0 mm. : maxima 32.9 x 27.8 and 32.3 x 29.0 mm. ; minima 28.5 x 26.3 and 29.0 x 25.4 min.
Both sexes incubate, both work on the burrow, and often both stay in the nest together. They sit very close and will sometimes refuse to move until lifted off their eggs,

The Nidification Of Birds Of The Indian Empire
Baker, Edward Charles Stuart. The nidification of birds of the Indian Empire. Vol. 3. 1934.
Title in Book: 
1529. Alcemerops athertoni
Spp Author: 
Book Author: 
Edward Charles Stuart Baker
Page No: 
Common name: 
Blue Bearded Bee Eater
Blue-bearded Bee-eater
Nyctyornis athertoni
Vol. 3

Add new comment

This question is for testing whether or not you are a human visitor and to prevent automated spam submissions.
Enter the characters shown in the image.
Scratchpads developed and conceived by (alphabetical): Ed Baker, Katherine Bouton Alice Heaton Dimitris Koureas, Laurence Livermore, Dave Roberts, Simon Rycroft, Ben Scott, Vince Smith