The Blue-cheeked Bee-eater breeds in Northern Africa, and the Middle East from eastern Turkey to Kazakhstan and India. It is strongly migratory, wintering in tropical Africa, although some populations breed and live year round in the Sahel. This species occurs as a rare vagrant north of its breeding range, with most vagrants occurring in Italy and Greece.
This species, like other bee-eaters, is a richly-colored, slender bird. It is predominantly green; its face has blue sides with a black eye stripe, and a yellow and brown throat; the beak is black. It can reach a length of 32 cm, with the two elongated central tail feathers adding another 7 cm. Sexes are mostly alike but the tail-streamers of the female are shorter.