Order: Coraciiformes

Family:    Merops

Scientific name: Merops leschenaulti, Vieillot, 1817

IUCN Red list status-Least Concern.

Did you know?

  1. Chestnut Headed Bee-eater is also known as Bay headed Bee-eater.


The Chestnut headed Bee-eater is 18-20 cm long and weighs 20-30 gms. They have bay-brown forehead, crown, mantle, nape and ear-coverts. There is a black lore passing as a band under the eyes and ear-coverts. The wings, lower back are green. The rump and the upper tail-coverts are pale blue with sheen. The chin, side of lower face and throat are lemon yellow. The central tail-feathers lack streamers and are bluish on the outer side and greenish on the inner-side. There is a chestnut throat band extending and merging with nape. Below this, there is a black throat band and an ill-defined yellow band. The breast and belly are yellowish green. The vent region is pale bluish green and under tail is pale grey. The irises are reddish brown and the feet are grey. Both sexes look similar.


The diet of Chestnut-headed Bee-eater is mostly flying insects. Honeybees, wasps, moths, ants, winged termites, crickets, dragonflies, butterflies, locust and grasshoppers are their primary food. They hunt their prey from an open perch. They hawk and catch the prey with the bill. After returning to the perch, the prey is battered and rubbed on the perch to remove the sting and venom before swallowing. Forage time is mainly day and it is done solitarily or in groups


Chestnut-headed Bee-eaters have moderate forest dependency. They inhabit in ecosystems like rural gardens, agricultural fields and plantations, dry forests, moist lowland forests, dry shrub land, open woodland, rivers, streams and creeks. In India it is distributed in Western Ghats, Himalayas and North East but very rare in Central and Eastern peninsular region. They are also found in Bangladesh, Myanmar and Sri Lanka.

Reproductive Behaviour

The breeding is from February to June in India. Loose breeding colonies of ten to hundred birds are formed. They are generally monogamous. Nesting sites are usually sandy banks. Both of the pair dig a long tunnel with their beaks and remove the sand with their feet. The nest-tunnel ends in a wide incubating chamber. Normally 5-6 white eggs are laid. Both the parents incubate eggs (almost up to 18-20 days) and care for the young ones.


The call is a soft “prreee” or “prruup” sound.

Related Species and Sub Species

  • Green Bee-eater (Merops orientalis).
  • Blue Tailed Bee-eater (Merops phillipinus).
  • Blue Cheeked Bee-eater (Merops persicus).
  • Black Bee-eater (Merops gularis).
  • Black Headed Bee-eater (Merops breweri).
  • White Throated Bee-eater (Merops albicollis).
  • Merops leschenaultia leschenaultia of India, Sri Lanka and Myanmar
  • Merops leschenaultia andamanensis of Andaman Islands.
  • Merops leschenaultia quinticolor of Indonesia.

Migratory Behaviour

Common Resident