Bee-eaters – Merops Genus
Merops is a large genus of bee-eaters, which are characterised by richly coloured plumage, slender bodies and usually elongated central tail feathers. They predominantly eat insects, especially bees, wasps and hornets, which are caught in the air. Most species are found in Africa and Asia but others occur in southern Europe, Australia, and New Guinea. There are more than twenty species of bee-eaters. So far I have photographed three.
This photo of a male Rainbow Bee-eater (Merops ornatus) is from Flat Rock, Ballina. NSW. The male has the long tail, whilst the female has not. Rainbow Bee-eaters are common throughout southern Australia during summer and migrate north during the winter as far as New Guinea and the southern islands of Indonesia.
This Chestnut-headed Bee-eater (Merops leschenaulti ) was taken at Gilimanuk, Bali, Indonesia. The Chestnut-headed Bee-eater does not have the elongated tail feathers of its relatives. The Javan sub-species, M. l. quinticolor, differs in having the whole space from the bill down to the black pectoral band pure yellow without any chestnut, and in having the tail blue. I have a feeling that this one is that sub-species.
This photo of the Blue-throated Bee-eater is from Batu 4, Port Dickson, Malaysia. Bee-eaters are gregarious. They form colonies by nesting in burrows tunnelled into the side of sandy banks, such as those that have collapsed on the edges of rivers. Going into Taman Negara in Malaysia, I saw many of these holes in the sides of the river. I have also seen bee-eaters in Australia in the Hunter Valley with nests in the creek banks near Wallabadah Cemetery.