Family Bee-eaters (Meropidae)

Least Concern

Rainbow Bee-eater (Merops ornatus)


French: Guêpier arc-en-ciel German: Regenbogenspint Spanish: Abejaruco australiano

Merops ornatus


, 1801,

New South Wales, Australia


Taxonomically isolated, but thought to be distantly derivative of the M. superciliosus species-group. Monotypic.


Breeds in Australia, including Rottnest I (SW Western Australia) and SW islands in Torres Strait, and in E New Guinea (at least Port Moresby area and Ramu Valley); possibly also in E Lesser Sundas. S populations winter in N of breeding range, mainly in and around New Guinea; also W throughout Wallacea.

Descriptive notes

19–21 cm (with streamers, up to 7 cm more); 20–33 g. Distinctive: male mainly green, very glossy, with burnished crown and nape, rufous primaries with green outer... read more


Most common call is a repeated rolling “prrrrp” or “prrreee”, similar to M. apiaster but... read more


Sandy pasture, arable land, lightly wooded savanna, wooded environs of creeks and lakes, parks,... read more

Food and feeding

Hymenoptera greatly preponderate in pellet samples; also eats beetles, bugs, flies, moths, butterflies, orthopterans, dragonflies and... read more


Lays Sept in Papua New Guinea; in Aug–Nov and Jan–Mar in W Queensland, and mid-Nov to mid-Dec in S Australia. Breeds in loose... read more


Large numbers spend the austral winter in N Queensland and a few in SW Queensland, but main... read more

Status and conservation

Not globally threatened (Least Concern). Widespread in E New Guinea and Australia except in deserts and heavily forested regions, and is seasonally common and locally... read more

Recommended citation

Fry, H. & Boesman, P. (2020). Rainbow Bee-eater (Merops ornatus). 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 23 January 2020).