Around this time of the year, every year, the banks of the Luangwa River become a colour blur of red and blue as thousands of southern carmine bee-eaters migrate to Zambia to select their breeding sites along the steep river banks.
Southern carmine bee-eaters are intra-African migrants and arrive at their breeding grounds during August through September. During this time, the area becomes a paradise for birders, photographers and nature enthusiasts in general.
Whether perched on a branch or soaring through the skies, the bee-eaters magnificent pinkish-red plumage, turquoise crowns and streaming tails make these birds an absolute pleasure to witness.
The best time to observe these birds is right now as both the males and females are actively digging their individual breeding tunnels into the bank. Each tunnel is up to two metres deep and this is where the birds will lay their eggs and nourish their young in late November and early December.
Visiting the breeding sites in the early morning or evening usually proves the most rewarding as this is when the birds are either out looking for food, or working on their tunnels. Of course, where there are bee-eaters and bird eggs, there are predators! Raptors and predatory birds can often also be seen around the area, taking advantage of unsuspecting bee-eaters.
Once breeding season is over, the birds don’t stick around long. They have a fairly complex migration system and around the beginning of December, they begin to move south for a few months before heading northwards towards the Democratic Republic of Congo and Kenya, where they will remain until the next breeding season.
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