Family Bee-eaters (Meropidae)

Least Concern

Swallow-tailed Bee-eater (Merops hirundineus)


French: Guêpier à queue d’aronde German: Schwalbenschwanzspint Spanish: Abejaruco golondrina

Merops hirundineus

A. A. H. Lichtenstein

, 1793,

Oranje River, South Africa


Has been placed in monotypic Dicrocercus due to tail shape; but this appears to be merely an exaggeration of the incipiently fish-tailed shape of M. oreobates, M. variegatus and M. pusillus, to which all other morphological and biological characters indicate present species to be closely allied. Four subspecies recognized.

Subspecies and Distribution
  • M. h. chrysolaimus Jardine & Selby, 1830 – Senegal E to N Central African Republic.
  • M. h. heuglini (Neumann, 1906) – NE DRCongo, N Uganda, S South Sudan and SW Ethiopia.
  • M. h. furcatus Stanley, 1814 – S DRCongo, N Tanzania and SE Kenya S to C Angola and Mozambique.
  • M. h. hirundineus A. A. H. Lichtenstein, 1793 – S Angola, SW Zambia and W Zimbabwe S to N South Africa (Northern Cape Province).
  • Descriptive notes

    23 cm; 18–29 g. Green above, with blue rump; broad black eyestripe edged with bluish-white below; throat yellow, bordered below by blue gorget; breast green, shading to... read more


    A variety of rather subdued rolling calls “peerrr...peerrr...”, “trip...trip...”. Flight call is a... read more


    Tall, mature savanna woodland; Baikiaea woodland on Kalahari sand, Isoberlinia,... read more

    Food and feeding

    Diet of honeybees and other hymenopterans, flies, beetles, butterflies, bugs, grasshoppers and cicadas. Feeds by fly-catching in same... read more


    In N tropics breeds about Apr–Jul, and in S Africa in Sept–Dec. Nests solitarily, or sometimes 2–3 pairs close together.... read more


    Mobile and nomadic. Movements poorly understood in N tropics, and difficult to interpret even in... read more

    Status and conservation

    Not globally threatened. Widely distributed but local and generally uncommon in N tropics; much larger range S of equator, where sparse and uncommon to locally common; near... read more

    Recommended citation

    Fry, H. & Boesman, P. (2019). Swallow-tailed Bee-eater (Merops hirundineus). 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 25 April 2019).