By far the easiest of the Fancy Five to see in southern France, the European Bee-eater has a lot going for it. Not only is it amazingly colorful, tame, graceful, gregarious, and noisy, but it has a very pretty name in Provençal: the Séréno.
Yes, they’re seductive, but the name is in fact a simple and straightforward prey-for-predator metonymy, descending ultimately from the Greek seirin meaning “wasp” rather than “Siren”; the word “siren” is attested in English with the same signification into the seventeenth century.
Another euphonious Provençal name, “manjo-mèu,” means “honeyeater,” a misapprehension of these birds’ diet: as Crespon says,
they swarm into the orchards where there are bee hives, and cut a swath of destruction through the bees and wasps they run across.
Why eat honey when you can have nice juicy bugs?
We see dozens, if not hundreds, of bee-eaters on our spring trip to Provence, hunting over fields and marshes, loafing on wires, and attending their nests in banks and ditches. Why not come see them with us?
They’re hard to see, but this tree on the edge of the Crau steppe is full of bee-eaters.