Africa 2017

Roosting White-Fronted Bee-Eaters

Black-capped chickadees are year-round residents of Alaska. Those tough little birds survive our sometimes brutally cold winters by huddling together at night, same as penguins do in Antarctica, and many birds elsewhere. For years, I’ve been on the lookout for a huddled mass of chickadees on a cold winter’s night, but I’ve never seen one.

That’s part of the reason I was so excited when Mike discovered a small group of white-fronted bee-eaters roosting together on a flimsy branch in our campsite along the Okavango River.

Four white-fronted bee-eaters roosting at night, Okavango River, Botswana

Bee-eaters roosting on a skinny little branch

Mike was just looking around when he noticed a dark mass in the silhouette of a tree’s branches. A flashlight revealed this foursome. Shining the light around the rest of the tree revealed two more roosting pairs.

Those branches are long and skinny. When the wind blows, they wave and shake, and the wind blew, though never terribly hard.

The birds were still there the next morning when we got up. Yes, we get up early. And for the next three nights, at least one pair shared our campsite, usually in the same tree, but not always. We looked forward to seeing them in the evening.

White-fronted bee-eater pair perched for the night, Okavango River, Botswana

A pair of perched pals

Now, it’s not all that cold here at night, not at this summer time of year, so I would guess this is more social than necessary for warmth; although, I don’t suppose they mind the extra warmth. I wonder if they roost in larger groups during winter.

And I wonder how many chickadees are necessary for a huddle to get through an Alaska night. Does anyone know?

2 replies »