As water levels drop along the Luangwa River, vertical banks appear, revealing the perfect nesting sites for these burrowing birds.
With the banks at their most exposed during the dry winter months, the carmine bee-eaters choose this time for their annual pilgrimage to the South Luangwa, returning to the same banks every year.
They excavate a tunnel two metres long into the compact soil, laying their eggs in a chamber at the end. The sheer face of the riverbanks cocoons the nests in safety. It makes them difficult to access from both above and below, preventing any predators from accessing the eggs or hatchlings. Beyond this, the proximity to the river ensures a steady supply of flying insects – a much-needed resource for a growing colony.