Family Bee-eaters (Meropidae)

Least Concern

Chestnut-headed Bee-eater (Merops leschenaulti)


French: Guêpier de Leschenault German: Braunkopfspint Spanish: Abejaruco cabecirrufo
Other common names: Bay-headed Bee-eater

Merops Leschenaulti


, 1817,

Java; error = Sri Lanka


Relationships unclear. Recent molecular phylogeny suggested that present species and M. viridis (with M. americanus) are part of a subclade, with M. orientalis (including M. viridissimus and M. cyanophrys) as sister#R. Three subspecies recognized.

Subspecies and Distribution
  • M. l. leschenaulti Vieillot, 1817 – S India and Sri Lanka; N India and Nepal E to S China (Yunnan), Indochina and Malay Peninsula.
  • M. l. andamanensis Marien, 1950 – Andaman Is and nearby Coco Is (Great Coco and Little Coco).
  • M. l. quinticolor Vieillot, 1817 – S Sumatra, Java and Bali.
  • Descriptive notes

    20–22·5 cm; 23–33 g. A distinctive, smallish bee-eater with long wings but without long tail-streamers. Nominate race has bay-brown crown and mantle, green... read more


    Very vocal, with most calls rather like those of M. apiaster, albeit briefer and less... read more


    Typically found in clearings and open spaces in forested country; also well-wooded open countryside... read more

    Food and feeding

    Not well known; eats honeybees (Apis), wasps, ants, termites, dragonflies, butterflies and grasshoppers, all taken airborne; two... read more


    Eggs usually laid in Feb–Jun, but May–Oct in Java; latest nestlings in May in Malaysia. Loosely colonial, with c. 10–100... read more


    In general resident, but marked migrations in some regions. In India, vacates monsoon-rainfall... read more

    Status and conservation

    Not globally threatened. Common at least locally throughout huge range. Unusually high adult survival rate, of 80% on Penang I, Malaysia. As with most or all open-country bee... read more

    Recommended citation

    Fry, H. & Kirwan, G.M. (2019). Chestnut-headed Bee-eater (Merops leschenaulti). In: del Hoyo, J., Elliott, A., Sargatal, J., Christie, D.A. & de Juana, E. (eds.). Handbook of the Birds of the World Alive. Lynx Edicions, Barcelona. (retrieved from on 25 April 2019).