Green Bee-eater

Green Bee-eater
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Green Bee-eater

Green Bee-eater Merops orientalis also known as Little Green Bee-eater was only recorded on the trip at this location where we saw six birds perched in a bare tree and from which they were flying for insects. The photo of the birds is rather distant but I took it beause they looked very different from those of the same species which I had photographed previously in India and seen in the Middle East and I wanted to investgate this further. The key features whch can be seen in the photo or at least in an enlarged version of it are a copper coloured rufous crown and mantle; green throat; light blue chin and cheek; a black gorget just visible; a green tail with elongated central tail feathers.

It is resident but prone to seasonal movements and is found widely distributed across sub-Saharan Africa from Senegal and The Gambia to Ethiopia, the Nile valley, western Arabia and Asia through India to Vietnam. They are mainly insect eaters and they are found in grassland, thin scrub and forest often quite far from water. Several regional plumage variations are known and several subspecies have been named.

Green Bee-eater was first described by the English ornithologist John Latham in 1801 using its current binomial name. Several populations have been designated as subspecies:

viridissimus is found from Senegal to northern Ethiopia (has more green on the throat, crown and nape with long streamers)
cleopatra from the Nile Valley to northern Sudan
flavoviridis from northern Chad to Sudan
muscatensis on the Arabian plateau (more yellowish green with narrow gorget on throat)
cyanophrys found in Israel and the Arabian region
beludschicus Iran to Pakistan (paler colours with a blue throat)
orientalis in India and Sri Lanka (has head and neck tinged with rufous)
ferrugeiceps in north eastern India, Myanmar, Thailand and Vietnam (has rufous crown, nape and mantle)
ceylonicus in Sri Lanka has the nape and hindneck with more pronounced golden brown sheen often included within the nominate race

The number of subspecies with different head colours at least explains why I didn’t recognise these birds as Gree Bee-eater initally. Based on the colour and range, they clearly belong to the subspecies M. o. ferrugeiceps.

References: Wikipedia; Robson, C. (2010) Birds of South-East Asia, page 60, New Holland Publishers (UK) Ltd.; Fry, C.H., Fry, K. and Harris, A. (1999) Kingfishers Bee-eaters and Rollers, pp 269-271, Christopher Helm (Publishers) Ltd.

Country: Thailand
Location: Doi Inthanon
Family: Bee-eaters (Meropidae)
Species: Green Bee-eater (Merops orientalis)
Date taken: 14/12/2016