Parrots are the birds that we mostly associate with bright, multi-coloured plumage. But the Rainbow Bee-eater is just as spectacular as many parrots.
Rainbow Bee-eaters are most often seen on power lines and posts, from where they keep an eye out for passing insects. A good place to see them is around the Girraween sporting complex.
Their favourite tucker are bees and wasps, but they will also take beetles, dragonflies and moths. They will take bees back to the perch where they rub the hapless insects against the perch to remove the sting and venom glands. The birds are actually immune to bee venom, but perhaps they don’t want stings stuck in their throats?
Bee-eaters can consume several hundred bees each day, so they are not loved by beekeepers. In fact, they were shot for a bounty in the early 1900s.
For a nest, Rainbow Bee-eaters dig a burrow into soft soil or sand. The tunnels are generally just under a metre long. They are quite narrow tunnels through which the birds can only just squeeze. It’s thought that this may create a sort of piston effect, pushing air in and out of the tunnel.
One can tell males from females by looking at the long streamers that extend beyond their tails. These are longer and thinner on males and shorter and thicker on females. Sometimes, however, the tail streamers get broken so it’s not always easy to tell the sexes apart.
Rainbow Bee-eaters have reduced along Australia’s east coast by around 50 per cent over the past 2 decades. This could be a product of declining numbers of bees. The other reason may be cane toads invading nests. A four-year study in SEQ found that interference by dogs, dingos and cane toads affected half of all nests.