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I have just seen a bee-eater in my garden in Cornwall. Is this rare?

Sent in by Christine Highams, Cornwall

As an occasional summer migrant to our southern shores the Bee-eater, with its unmistakable plumage is an amazing bird to see. Often seen perching on telegraph wires or bare branches, UK sightings of this remarkably colourful bird can fluctuate year in year out, their numbers varying from 14 to 132 each year. Current Cornish sightings, this year alone include a record on 24 May near Porthcurno and more recently in June, when one was seen at Lands End (16 June) as well as one bird seen flying over St Just (17 June).
 
There have been two recent records of Bee-eaters breeding in the UK: in County Durham in 2002 and Herefordshire in 2005. A pair also excavated a nest hole in Dorset in 2006. Records dating back to 1955, show that two pairs of Bee-eaters managed to successfully breed in Sussex and one pair made an attempt to breed in Midlothian, Scotland in 1920.

The Bee-eater usually starts to breed from early May onwards and normally in lowland and steppe areas of the Palaearctic and Mediterranean, before choosing to winter in parts of Africa.
 
Along with its stunning plumage, which features a blue-green tail, yellow throat and chestnut coloured crown, the Bee-eater has a distinctive ‘pruuk-pruik’ call, which is far ranging and fluid in tone. In order to catch its prey, the Bee-eater is an agile and skilful flyer and their diet as their name suggests, includes flying insects such as bees and wasps. Once their prey is caught, it is taken to a favourite perch and the sting actively removed.

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