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Difference between Northern and Southern Carmine Bee-eater

Game Warden

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Photographed near Watamu, Kenya (July 2007). Image © Rainbirder.






Image © Wild Dogger


In the Northern the blue/green/cyan colour extends onto the face and cheek below the black eye mask whereas in the Southern this is replaced by the rosy/carmine coloration - when seen side by side the difference is clear. - Rainbirder.


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Deleted two posts from here. On topic here please if anyone wants to add pertinent detail. Thanks, Matt.

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The northern and southern carmine bee-eaters were considered to be races of the same species and in fact still are in some books however the general view is that they are two distinct species.


The northern carmine Merops nubicus is distributed from Senegambia right across the Sahel to the Red Sea and then south in to northern Uganda and much of Kenya mainly in the north and east and on down into the north east of Tanzania.


The southern carmine Merops nubicoides is a Southern/South Central African species found from northern South Africa to the southern DRC and up the western side of Tanzania to Rwanda. Occasional vagrant birds have been known to show up in south western Kenya where the northern species is absent.


Vagrants aside the only country where both carmine species are found is Tanzania but they occur on opposite sides of the country and at no point do their ranges overlap. So if you’re looking at a carmine bee-eater unless it is a vagrant that has turned up somewhere unexpected you should be able to identify the species purely by distribution.

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Great shots! This birds looks so amazing and colorful.

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  • 1 year later...

So if I see a Carmine Bee-eater in Selous or Ruaha, would they be Northern or Southern? Above inyathi says they don't overlap, but I seem to have found photos on the web of both, and the bird list of Ruaha on the Adventure Camps site lists both.


Also and related--does anyone know what month the Carmine Bee-eaters would arrive in Selous or Ruaha?

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  • 8 years later...

Hello Game Warden  - thank you for the differences between the two Carmine Bee-eaters as I up to now had mis-identified the one I saw, which I believe was the Southern but no know is the Northern, :)


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  • 2 weeks later...
On 9/14/2013 at 3:18 AM, janzin said:

does anyone know what month the Carmine Bee-eaters would arrive in Selous or Ruaha?

Well it is a bit of a late answer @janzinCarmines, and other Beaters, follow the sun between Tropic and Equator. Hence Northerns are in Ethiopia for Paleartic 'summer' and head south as the northern climes head to what you call the 'Fall' (September) when the sun is overhead in TZ and 'overwinter' then leave north again in 'Spring' (April) with their Southern cousins arriving in west TZ from Capricorn around March.

So for seeing Northerns in Selous/Ruaha you would need to be there from September to March. I visit over Christmas usually and always find some.

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