1030. Melittophagus swinhoii.
The Chestnut-headed Bee-eater.
Merops erythrocephalus ?, Cm. Syst. Nat. i, p. 463 (1778) ; Blyth, Cat. p. 63 ; Blyth & Wald. Birds Burma, p. 72. Merops quinticolor, apud Horsf. & M. Cat. p. 88; Jerdon, B. 1. i, p. 208; Beavan, Ibis, 1867, p. 318; Godw.-Aust. J. A. S. B. xxxix, pt. 2, p. 266; Holdsw. P. Z. S. 1872, p. 423 ; Jerdon, Ibis, 1872, p. 3 ; Walden, Ibis, 1873, p. 301; Davidson, Jour. Bomb. N. H. Soc. vi, p. 332 (nee V.). Merops swinhoei, Hume, N. & E. p. 102 (1873); id. S. F. ii, p. 163; vii, p. 455 ; xi, p. 42 ; id. Cat. no. 119; Ball, S. F. ii, p. 386 ; vii, p. 203 ; Fairb. S. F. iv, p. 254; Armstrong, ibid. p. 305; Legge, Birds Ceyl. p. 312; Parker, S. F. ix, p. 478 ; Davison, S. F. x, p. 350; Barnes, Birds Bom. p. 95. Merops leschenaultii, apud Fairb. S. F. v, p. 394; Anders. Yunnan Exped., Aves, p. 582; Hume & Dav. S. F. vi, p. 68 (nec V.). Melittophagus leschenaulti, apud Oates, B. B. ii, p. 68. Melittophagus quinticolor, apud Dresser, Mon. Mer. p. 115, pl. xxvi; Oates in Hume's N. & E. 2nd ed. iii. p. 67. Melittophagus swinhoii, Sharpe, Cat. B. M. xvii, p. 55.
Kurumenne Kurulla, Pook-Kira, Cingalese.
Coloration. Whole crown with the ear-coverts, hind neck, and upper back chestnut; lores and a narrow line running back under the eye and ear-coverts black; interscapulars, scapulars, and outside of wings bright green ; quills the same, but (the tertiaries excepted) with black tips and rufous inner margins; rump and upper tail-coverts pale blue ; tail-feathers green above, all except the median pair dusky on their margins and tips; chin and throat yellow ; a rufous-brown gorget joining the chestnut of the upper surface, and bordered behind with black not extending to the sides of the neck, but succeeded by an ill-defined yellow band; breast green, passing into bluish green on the abdomen and lower tail-coverts.
Bill black ; iris crimson ; legs dusky black (Oates).
Length 8.5 ; tail 4; wing 4.2 ; tarsus .43 ; bill from gape 1.7.
After going over the original descriptions, I believe the true Merops quinticolor to be the Javan species. M. leschenaulti is not recognizable. Vieillot appears merely to have copied Levaillant's descriptions and localities, and the latter are notoriously worthless.
Distribution. A resident, locally distributed throughout Ceylon and in the hill-forests near the Malabar coast as far north as Belgaum, ascending the Nilgiris to about 5000 feet. Elsewhere in the Peninsula this bird is only known to occur in the great forest-region south-east of Bengal, and there it is very rare ; but Mr. Ball obtained a specimen in Sarguja and I shot one on the Godavari below Sironcha. It ranges throughout the Lower Himalayas as far west as Dehra Dun, and east of the Bay of Bengal from Assam to the Malay Peninsula, Siam, and Cochin China, occurring locally throughout Burma and in the Andaman Islands.
Habits, &c. Similar to those of Merops. This bird is usually seen perched on a tree, very often on a dead branch, or catching insects on the wing. It chiefly prefers forests or well-wooded country near streams. It breeds about March and April, generally in colonies, in holes of considerable depth, and lays usually 5 or 6 glossy white eggs in a chamber at the end of the hole. The eggs measure about .87 by .76.