Rainbow Bee-eater Merops ornatus

This page is a chapter in the book Bee-eaters.
Rainbow Bee-eater
Scientific Classification
Species:M. ornatus
Binomial name
Merops ornatus

The Rainbow Bee-eater is the only bird of its family in Australia.


As its name suggests, the Rainbow Bee-eater is brightly coloured. Adults are bright green, with a blue rump and dark tail feathers with an extended thin pair of central tail feathers. They have rufous patches on their wings and nape. They have a black eye stripe and throat band, with a yellow throat. The eye is dark red. Juvenile birds are paler in colour, lack the extended tail feathers and the black throat band is absent.

[top]Behavioural characteristics

These birds stay in loose flocks, hawking flying insects from prominent perches in open areas, often calling as they do.

[top]Distribution and habitat

Most of Australia except Eastern WA and Western SA. They are common in areas with sandy soil and can be found in most habitat with open areas where there are perches for hawking insects.


Dig a nest in sandy soil, sometimes in banks but may dig a nest on flat ground.


A persistant "prrip" in flight.
Calls: Rainbow Bee-eater Calls.mp3
Juvenile begging for food: Rainbow Bee-eater Juvenile Begging.mp3

[top]Where to find

In South Australia: Hale Conservation Park, Altona CSR Landcare Reserve, Sandy Creek Conservation Park, Kaiserstuhl Conservation Park.

[top]Photographic Tips

When approached, a perched bird will emit a shorter "prip" if it becomes uncomfortable and will often shortly after take flight. These birds often have a particular perch that they return to with prey to eat it.


Juvenile Rainbow Bee-eater, Hale Conservation Park, SA.Juvenile Rainbow Bee-eater, Hale Conservation Park, SA.
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