Every year, as the days grow shorter and the temperatures drop in Central Africa, the breeding season of the carmine bee-eaters draws to an end and the call of migration beckons. With their striking carmine plumage, gracefully elongated tail feathers, and unmistakable chirps, carmine-bee eaters set the sky ablaze at the end of August as they journey across the continent by the thousands.
Their destination? The wilderness of Zambia. The water levels drop along the river banks in Zambia during the dry winter months, revealing the perfect nesting sites for these burrowing birds. With the banks at their most exposed during this season, the carmine bee-eaters choose this time for their annual pilgrimage to the South Luangwa and Lower Zambezi, returning to the same banks every year.
The diverse landscapes provide a haven for these travellers, with the riverbanks and savannahs offering an abundant supply of insects, the primary diet of these bee-eaters. Bees, wasps, dragonflies, and other insects that inhabit the ecosystem of these regions are a vital source of nourishment for these birds during their stay.
Upon their arrival in Zambia, the bee-eaters set up temporary residences, creating nesting colonies along the riverbanks. Their remarkable communal nests, consisting of tunnels dug into the soft riverbank soil, become bustling centres of activity. Here, the birds engage in courtship rituals, establish their territories, and rear their young in a synchronized dance of life.
The presence of carmine bee-eaters enriches Zambia’s ecosystem in numerous ways too. Carmine bee-eaters are insectivores meaning that they assist in controlling the pest populations, fostering a delicate balance in the local environment. Moreover, their vibrant colours and behaviours add a touch of wonder to the natural tapestry, drawing the admiration of seasoned birders, photographers and safari-goers alike.
Did you know? Carmine bee-eaters are known to time their breeding season with the emergence of certain bee species. They rely on these bees as a primary food source for themselves and their chicks, hence their breeding synchronization with the bee populations.
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