Updated: Jan 19, 2022
Bee-Eaters are a group of near passerine birds in the family Meropidae, containing three genera and twenty-seven species. Most species are found in Africa and Asia, with a few in southern Europe, Australia, and New Guinea. They are characterised by richly coloured plumage, slender bodies, and usually elongated central tail feathers. All have long down-turned bills and medium to long wings, which may be pointed or round. Male and female plumage are usually similar.
As their name suggests, bee-eaters predominantly eat flying insects, especially bees and wasps, which are caught on the wing from an open perch. The stinger is removed by repeatedly hitting and rubbing the insect on a hard surface. During this process, pressure is applied to the insect, thereby extracting most of the venom.
Thailand has 6 recorded species of Bee-Eater, most of which are resident throughout the year.
Over the last few years I have been lucky enough to observe and photograph all of these wonderful birds.
Red-Bearded Bee-Eater Nyctyornis amictus
The Red-Bearded Bee-Eater (Nyctyornis amictus) is a large species of bee-eater found in the Indo-Malayan sub region of South-east Asia. This species is found in openings in patches of dense forest. In Thailand, they are found mainly in the south, but are also regularly found at Kaeng Krachan National Park.
Like other bee-eaters, they are colourful birds with long tails, long decurved beaks and pointed wings. They are large bee-eaters, predominantly green, with a red colouration to face that extends on to the slightly hanging throat feathers to form the “beard”. Their eyes are orange. Like other bee-eaters, they predominantly eat insects, especially bees, wasps and hornets, which are caught in flight from perches concealed in foliage. They hunt alone or in pairs, rather than in flocks, and sit motionless for long periods before pursuing their prey. Like other bee-eaters, they nest in burrows tunneled into the side of sandy banks, but do not form colonies. My picture here was taken here at Kaeng Krachan National Park.
Conservation status of Red-Bearded Bee-Eaters is of "least concern"
Blue-Bearded Bee-Eater Nyctyornis athertoni
The Blue-Bearded Bee-Eater (Nyctyornis athertoni) is a species of bee-eater found in much of the Indian subcontinent and parts of Southeast Asia. This bee-eater is found in forest clearings. It is found mainly in the Malayan region but extends west into peninsular India. The blue feathers of its throat are elongated and often fluffed giving it its name. They have a loud call but are not as gregarious or active as the smaller bee-eaters, and their square ended tail lacks the typical "wires" made up of the shafts of the longer central tail feathers in many species.
This species is found in a variety of habitats mostly at medium altitudes but below 2000m altitude. Thin to fairly thick forest in medium elevations with clearings is the typical habitat. It is found singly or in small groups of up to three and is very patchily distributed. Their presence in an area can easily be missed.My picture here was taken here at Phu Toei National Park
Conservation status of Blue-Bearded Bee-Eaters is of "least concern"
Green Bee-Eater Merops orientalis
The Green Bee-Eater (Merops orientalis), is a near passerine bird in the bee-eater family. Like other bee-eaters, this species is a richly coloured, slender bird. It is about 9 inches (16–18 cm) long with about 2 inches made up by the elongated central tail-feathers. The sexes are not visually distinguishable. The entire plumage is bright green and tinged with blue especially on the chin and throat. Southeast Asian birds have rufous crown and face, and green underparts. The breeding season is from March to June. They nest in hollows in vertical mud banks. The nest tunnel can be as long as as 5 feet long and 3-5 eggs are laid.
My picture here was taken here around the Phetchaburi Ricefields
Conservation status of Green Bee-Eaters is of "least concern"
Blue-Tailed Bee-Eater Merops philippinus
The Blue-Tailed Bee-Eater (Merops philippinus) is a near passerine bird in the bee-eater family Meropidae.
This species, like other bee-eaters, is a richly coloured, slender bird. It is predominantly green; its face has a narrow blue patch with a black eye stripe, and a yellow and brown throat; the tail is blue and the beak is black. It can reach a length of 23–26 cm, including the two elongated central tail feathers. Sexes are alike. This is a bird which breeds in sub-tropical open country, such as farmland, parks or ricefields. It is most often seen near large waterbodies. Like other bee-eaters it predominantly eats insects, especially bees, wasps and hornets, which are caught in the air by sorties from an open perch. This species probably takes bees and dragonflies in roughly equal numbers.
My picture here was taken here at Pak Phli.
Conservation status of Blue Tailed Bee-Eaters is of "least concern"
Chestnut-Headed Bee-Eater Merops leschenaulti
The Chestnut-Headed Bee-Eater (Merops leschenaulti), is a resident breeder in the Indian subcontinent and adjoining regions, ranging from India east to Southeast Asia. This species is 18–20 cm long; it lacks the two elongated central tail feathers possessed by most of its relatives. Forehead, crown, nape, lower face and ear-coverts bright chestnut ; lores black, continued as a band under the eye and ear-coverts ; wing-coverts, lower back and tertiaries green, the latter tipped with bluish; rump and upper tail-coverts pale shining blue
This is a bird which breeds in sub-tropical open woodland, often near water. It is most common in highland areas.
My picture here was taken here at Kaeng Krachan
Conservation status of Chestnut Headed Bee-Eaters is of "least concern" .
Blue-Throated Bee-Eater Merops viridis
The Blue-Throated Bee-Eater (Merops viridis) is a species of bird in the bee-eater family. They are found throughout southeast Asia in subtropical or tropical mangrove forests. Their diet consists mostly of bees, wasps, and dragonflies. Adult blue-throated bee-eaters grow to around 21 cm, with an additional 9 cm including tail streamers.They weigh around 34 to 41 grams. They have a spectacular plumage with a red crown and nape, dark green wings, blue tail, light green breast, white belly, and the signature blue throat.
Blue-throated Bee-Eaters practice asynchronous brooding, which means that chicks hatch at different times. The most concentrated distribution is found in Singapore, Malaysia, southern Cambodia, and southern Thailand. Conservation status of Blue-throated Bee-Eaters is of "least concern" due to their large distribution and stability of its population as of 2016. However, destruction of its habitat and deforestation may be its biggest threat.
My picture here was taken here at Hat Wannakorn National Park
Conservation status of Blue Tailed Bee-Eaters is of "least concern"