View Full Version : Bee-eaters of Naguvanahalli

Sabyasachi Patra
13-05-2015, 12:28 PM
This is a unique behaviour I documented recently. The bee-eaters dig the soft sand on river banks to build their nesting cavity. One can imagine that their beaks would be getting worn up due to the digging. So during breeding season they eat snail shells and calcium rich pebbles. During one afternoon, I found this bee-eater gulping down the snail shells. I am not sure if the timing ie. afternoon is of any relevance and why. This bee-eater and/or its mate had got the snail shells and kept it near their nesting cavity. It tried one of the bigger snail shells and quickly discarded it, as it perhaps realised that the size is a bit too much for it to swallow.

Shot this with Canon Cinema C300 camera at f8, ISO 850, 1/50. This is a frame grab from the short 3 min film that I did to highlight the behaviour as well as challenges faced by the Bee-eaters of naguvanahalli. You can watch it at this link: https://youtu.be/tqocpyGA3GA

Samrat Sarkar
14-05-2015, 11:09 AM
Sabyasachi da
Thanks for sharing such an interesting post. We all know that we need calcium for the health of our bones, because we have heard so from the doctors. But these tiny creatures know this from their own nature. This is evident from the post you have shared with us. The Youtube video linked with this post is even more touchy. This must be a rare documentation. thanks again for sharing this....

Roopak Gangadharan
14-05-2015, 12:08 PM
Nice to see this behavior sir....perfect way to show how intricately connected and the delicately balanced the web of life is... I have not seen birds eating shells but have seen them gulping stones which is supposed to help in digestion. I guess this must be acting as a form of calcium supplement.


Mrudul Godbole
15-05-2015, 11:12 AM
It was very interesting to see the bee-eaters tossing the shells and then gulping them. Had not seen this before. Nicely captured. Thanks for sharing.

Saktipada Panigrahi
16-05-2015, 04:40 PM
A nice page on food habits supported by nice image from your field study of the Blue-tailed Bee-eater. Thanks for sharing incredible information. SaktiWild

Saktipada Panigrahi
16-05-2015, 05:58 PM
P.S.: Because of their consumption of whole-prey food items, bee-eaters, in particular regurgitate pellets of indigestible material. Whether the half-digested food is fed to the chicks needs confirmation.

Shri Sabyasachi,
Because of complex digestive system of Bee-eaters, your study is quite interesting and difficult. Wish you all the best.
Kind regards,

Abhishek Jamalabad
07-06-2015, 09:50 AM
Very interesting, Sabyasachi. Never noticed this behaviour before. Should keep an eye out for it. I am not sure how much calcium goes into the keratin beak of these birds. Were all the shells empty (no live animal inside)?

Sabyasachi Patra
09-06-2015, 02:48 PM
I have no idea whether the shells were empty or not as I didn't go close to the nest. I guess from the sound of the shells when the bee-eater was tossing up the snail shells, those might be empty.

Saktipada ji,
After digging, their beaks get fairly worn out. I did a lot of secondary research ie. reading existing papers on bee-eaters. I have now found one reference online about such behaviour of swallowing snail shells for calcium needs. Trying to get the original paper. Video recording the complete behaviour has helped, else people would have said that the bird was playing with the snail shell.