Garden for Wildlife signs around Alice Springs stand out for their colour – containing a representation of the Rainbow bee-eater (Merops ornatus). This week marked the first sighting of the Rainbow bee-eater for this spring! Winter has been quiet without their scissor-grinder trill, but it seems a few individuals have returned. The seasonal movement patterns of Rainbow Bee-eaters are complex and understanding their movements is a work in progress.
While northern Australian populations are resident throughout the year, there may be some movement from riparian breeding areas to more open areas for the non-breeding season. Southern populations, on the other hand, are migratory and travel north to Australia’s top end, Papua New Guinea and Indonesia for the Australian winter. Movement begins in February following the breeding season and they remain in warmer climates until the southern-Australia weather begins to warm in October. Central Australian populations also seem to head north from mid-April to early September, though Alice Springs residents may see individuals passing through from southern regions until June.
Southward movements begin in late August, passing over the Timor Sea, Arafura Sea or Torres Straight in their passage home. Migrating flocks travel high above the ground while on passage, with populations assembling before migration and travelling in groups of hundreds or more. Read more on the seasonal movements and habitat of Rainbow Bee-eaters at the Australian Government website.