The Migration of Carmine Bee-eaters in South Luangwa in Zambia

June 21, 2024
Close up of Carmine Bee Eater

Being on Safari is truly my happy place.  I love being in nature, in the wilderness.  It’s contagious, once you have a taste for bush.

Without a doubt, you start looking for incredible natural phenomenon  Such as the Annual Wildebeest Migration in East Africa. Dazzling Zebras in Botswana and The Southern Right Whales in our False Bay, Cape Town.  However, The migration of carmine bee-eaters in South Luangwa, Zambia, is a remarkable natural phenomenon that attracts birdwatchers and nature enthusiasts worldwide. This has to be on your bucket list if you love birds.

Close up of Carmine Bee Eater

Here’s an overview of this spectacular event:

Timing and Season

Carmine bee-eaters migrate to the South Luangwa Valley around late August to September, coinciding with the dry season in Zambia. They stay until around November to December before moving to their wintering grounds.

Habitat and Nesting

In South Luangwa, these birds are commonly found along the riverbanks of the Luangwa River. They prefer sandy cliffs and riverbanks where they can excavate tunnels for nesting. These tunnels can be up to 1-2 meters long and are dug into the vertical sandbanks, providing a safe place for their eggs and chicks away from predators.

Amazing colourful migration of carmine bee ater

Behaviour and Social Structure

Carmine bee-eaters are highly social birds, often seen in large colonies. Their vibrant plumage, consisting of bright carmine pink with a blue-green head and throat, makes them stand out in the landscape. The birds engage in cooperative behaviors such as colony defense and group foraging. They primarily feed on flying insects, especially bees and other Hymenoptera, which they catch in mid-air.

Flocks of Carmine Bee Eaters in a tree

Migration Patterns

Arrival: The birds arrive in large numbers, filling the skies with vivid colors and distinctive calls. The sight of thousands of carmine bee-eaters is both visually stunning and aurally impressive.

Breeding Season: During their stay, they focus on breeding. The males and females work together to dig their nesting tunnels and raise their chicks.

Departure: As the rainy season approaches in December, the carmine bee-eaters begin their migration to other parts of Africa, including regions like Botswana, Namibia, and South Africa, where they spend the wet season.

Carmine Bee Eater on the sand

Ecological Importance

The presence of carmine bee-eaters in South Luangwa plays a significant role in the local ecosystem. They help control insect populations, including crop pests, and their nesting activities contribute to soil aeration along riverbanks.


While carmine bee-eaters are not currently endangered, their reliance on specific habitats for nesting makes them vulnerable to habitat destruction and changes in river dynamics. Conservation efforts in South Luangwa focus on protecting their nesting sites and ensuring the health of the river ecosystem to support their annual migration. I would love to sit quietly and photograph these Carmine Bee-eaters in Zambia!

Flocks flying in the sky

Witnessing the migration of carmine bee-eaters in South Luangwa is a breathtaking experience, showcasing the intricate patterns of nature and the beauty of avian life. What an incredible experience witnessing the Carmine Bee eaters Zambia!


Carmine Bee Eater Migration

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