Cooperation—That’s for the Birds
Meet Africa’s white-fronted bee-eater, a bird that catches insects, including bees, while on the wing. This colorful little creature is also known for its selfless traits. Instead of nesting in a tree, it digs in a sandbank and makes a nest chamber at the end of a long tunnel, where the female lays her eggs. When these hatch, other bee-eaters cooperate, assisting the parents in providing food for the chicks. These willing helpers are often youngsters from a previous brood, but they also include birds who are unrelated. When food is scarce, as in times of drought, the number of assistant bee-eaters has been observed to increase.
“Even in the non-breeding season,” state Sinclair and Mendelsohn in the book Everyone’s Guide to South African Birds, “this species usually associates in small groups, and at night, large numbers may roost communally in trees”—which is one more proof that ‘birds of a feather do flock together.’
[Picture Credit Line on page 31]
World copyright photograph by Peter Johnson