Family Bee-eaters (Meropidae)

Least Concern

Little Bee-eater (Merops pusillus)


French: Guêpier nain German: Zwergspint Spanish: Abejaruco chico

Merops pusillus

Statius Müller

, 1776,



Has been placed with other small, rounded-winged species lacking tail-streamers in genus Melittophagus (see M. lafresnayii). Races all intergrade along narrow corridor where respective ranges meet; proposed races sharpei and landanae considered intermediates. Five subspecies recognized.

Subspecies and Distribution
  • M. p. pusillus Statius Müller, 1776 – Senegal and Guinea E to SW Sudan (to c. 29° E) and NDR Congo.
  • M. p. ocularis (Reichenow, 1900) – from C Sudan E to Red Sea coast of Eritrea and W Ethiopia, S to NE DRCongo and NW Uganda.
  • M. p. cyanostictus Cabanis, 1869 – C & E Ethiopia, NW & S Somalia and E Kenya.
  • M. p. meridionalis (Sharpe, 1892) – E Africa (except E Kenya), and from equator S to Angola and NE South Africa.
  • M. p. argutus Clancey, 1967 – SW Angola, N Namibia, N & E Botswana, SW Zimbabwe and N South Africa (North West Province).
  • Descriptive notes

    16–17 cm; 13–19 g. The smallest bee-eater. Crown and upperparts green; broad black eyestripe; cheeks and throat yellow, bordered below by black gorget with... read more


    Commonest call is a short, repeated “tsip”. In group, other birds may respond with a reedy “... read more


    Grassy places, seldom far from water: in dry season frequents marshes, lakeshores, riverbanks,... read more

    Food and feeding

    Feeds on large variety of small insects taken on wing, mainly 4·5–12 mm long, some up to 30 mm long: mostly honeybees, ... read more


    Fledglings seen Feb–Jul in Sierra Leone; eggs in Jan in Mali; in Nigeria laying starts later with increasing latitude, from Mar in C... read more


    Resident, and sedentary or locally dispersive and nomadic. Seasonal shifts in abundance at a given... read more

    Status and conservation

    Not globally threatened. Throughout its vast range, common in suitable habitat by permanent water but often thinly distributed elsewhere. Density around Zaria, N Nigeria,... read more

    Recommended citation

    Fry, H. & Boesman, P. (2020). Little Bee-eater (Merops pusillus). In: del Hoyo, J., Elliott, A., Sargatal, J., Christie, D.A. & de Juana, E. (eds.). Handbook of the Birds of the World Alive. Lynx Edicions, Barcelona. (retrieved from on 28 February 2020).