Dinosaur 1, mammal 0. Bee-eater catches bat.

June 29, 2015 • 9:58 am

by Matthew Cobb

PCC mailed me from holiday (can you spot the problem in that phrase?) and asked me to post these amazing photos by Shuki Cheled, which have just been posted on birdguides.com, where Jonathan Meyrav writes this:

On Friday 26 June photographer Shuki Cheled was birding around the Judean plains with a Dutch birding friend. Near the village of Nahala the two encountered a European Bee-eater with something large in its bill. The bird eventually flew closer and the two were amazed to see that the prey was actually a bat! The bat was alive and flapping at first, and was probably a Kuhl’s Pipistrelle (Pipistrellus kuhlii).

The bee-eater proceeded to hit the bat against branches, as they do with wasps and bees, until the bat died. The bee-eater spent the following minutes trying to swallow the bat, flipping it over and over, without success. Eventually it flew off, with the bat still in its beak, so the eventual outcome remains unknown.

This is a truly remarkable story: European Bee-eaters are known to feed on many flying insects but rarely take terrestrial prey. They sometimes hunt termites, caterpillars and grubs, but never prey of this size. The only logical scenario I can think of is that the pipistrelle made the mistake of choosing to roost in the Bee-eater’s nest cavity and the bird was simply trying to remove the threat, but who knows.

One of the commenters on the birdguides post, Steve Portugal says: ‘

I was in Italy once and saw juvenile Starlings trying to enter Bee-eater burrows – the Bee-eaters dragged them out and tried to drown them.

11 thoughts on “Dinosaur 1, mammal 0. Bee-eater catches bat.

  1. That must count as strikeout as bat.

    [Poor bat! Especially if it was a roost mistake made in the cold sound of night.]

  2. “They sometimes hunt termites, caterpillars and grubs, but never prey of this size”

    Bee Eater chokes on bat..
    Great shots, grim stories..

  3. Is the bee-eater fully adult, or still a juvenile? This may be a “learning experience”. Or, in bird speak : “Huh, I’m not going to try that again. Looks like a lot of grub, but with this beak and these toes I just can’t turn it into small enough pieces to eat.

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