A few weeks ago, I was passing though Delhi, and stayed at my parent’s house at Noida. Their house is in the middle of a residential colony with houses everywhere — concrete rules here. When I got home, my father beckoned me to come up to the terrace of the house. As I walked onto the terrace, I was startled when a bird swooped over me, passing no more that a few feet over my head! Looking up, I recognised the bird to be a green bee-eater (Merops orientalis).
The green bee-eater, as its name suggests, is a green bird that loves to feed on bees. The bee-eater is green all over, but during the breeding season, its head turns reddish-brown. It has a black band on its throat. It has a long tail, with two needle-like feathers jutting out from the centre of the tail. The bee-eater has a long down-curved black beak.
Standing on the terrace, I realised that a flock of bee-eaters had made the neem tree outside my parent’s house their diurnal roost. My father informed me that they were seen at the same location every day. Numerous bee-eaters were flying overhead and I counted six birds. Eventually all of them descended onto the neem tree. They sat on the same branch and huddled together in one line. The six birds sat together on one branch, each bird touching the one next to it. Huddled together cutely, the bee-eaters seemed to get comfort in this warm embrace.
For the next half an hour, I watched the bee-eaters at work. Every now and then, one of the bee-eaters would break up the ‘huddle’ and foray into the area around the tree. It would sit on a branch, looking this way and that. On spotting something to eat, it would swoop into the air, and grab the insect in flight. After catching its prey, it would beat it against a branch, in order to kill the insect and then gobble it up. Watching the bee-eaters through my binoculars, I realised, that true to their name, most of the insects that the bee-eaters caught were, indeed, bees.
They were completely unconcerned by our presence and allowed me to watch and photograph them from up close. I marvelled at the fact that in the midst of this concrete jungle, these birds had a found a place to reside, feed and thrive. The green bee-eater is a common bird throughout India, so there is a good chance that you might see it outside your home, if only you look!