Lilac-Breasted Roller

Lilac-Breasted Roller

Fork-tailed roller, Lilac-throated roller, Mosilikatze's roller

Kingdom
Phylum
Class
Subclass
Infraclass
Superorder
Family
Genus
SPECIES
Coracias caudatus
Population size
Unknown
Life Span
10 yrs
WEIGHT
104 g
LENGTH
36-38 cm
WINGSPAN
50-58 cm

The Lilac-breasted roller is a beautifully colored African bird known for its acrobatic aerial displays during the breeding season. The sexes look similar, and juveniles lack the long tail streamers of adults. This species is unofficially considered the national bird of Kenya.

Di

Diurnal

Ca

Carnivore

He

Herbivore

Ar

Arboreal

Al

Altricial

Am

Ambush predator

Te

Terrestrial

Ov

Oviparous

Bu

Burrowing

Te

Territorial

Mo

Monogamy

Ge

Generally solitary

So

Solitary

Pa

Partial Migrant

No

Not a migrant

L

starts with

Distribution

Geography

Lilac-breasted rollers are found throughout eastern and southern Africa. Their range extends from the Red Sea coast of Eritrea through East Africa (including Zanzibar) to southern Africa, where they occur commonly in Namibia (excluding the Namib Desert), Botswana, Zimbabwe, and northeastern South Africa. Some populations are non-migratory, while others migrate from northeast Kenya to northwest Somalia to breed from late April to mid-September. Lilac-breasted rollers live in open savannah habitats with scattered trees and shrubs. Less often they frequent riverine vegetation and light forest and may enter sub desert steppe or open grassland where any elevated perches may be used. In protected areas, these birds frequent the verges of roads, especially during fires, but generally, they try to avoid other human-influenced areas and are not found in urban or rural areas.

Lilac-Breasted Roller habitat map

Climate zones

Habits and Lifestyle

Lilac-breasted rollers are active during the day and usually found alone or in pairs. They perch conspicuously at the tops of trees, poles, or other high vantage points from where they can spot insects, lizards, or other prey moving about on the ground. Lilac-breasted rollers hunt from a perch and scout from a higher vantage point (including from atop of large herbivorous mammals) before swooping in and grabbing prey with their beaks. If their prey is small, they will swallow it on the ground. These aggressive birds will carry larger prey back to a perch and beat it until it is dismembered. Outside of protected areas such as national parks, Lilac-breasted rollers may often be seen when farmers burn land for agricultural use. Such brush fires stir up insects and other invertebrates, and birds can be seen swooping in for easy prey. In East Africa, they join other perch hunters like Taita fiscals and Pale flycatchers to make opportunistic use of grassland fires. In South Africa, they are also seen in association with kites, storks, swallows, and bee-eaters when burning of firebreaks drive small animals unto roads. The call of Lilac-breasted rollers is a harsh, sawing 'rak rak rak that is given during flight. They also produce loud raucous calls during flight displays and will perch to sing.

Bird's call

Diet and Nutrition

Lilac-breasted rollers are carnivores. They feed on arthropods and small vertebrates, including ground-dwelling insects, spiders, scorpions, centipedes and millipedes, snails, and a variety of small vertebrates, including small birds.

Mating Habits

MATING BEHAVIOR
REPRODUCTION SEASON
varies with location
INCUBATION PERIOD
22-24 days
INDEPENDENT AGE
48-50 days
BABY NAME
chick
BABY CARRYING
2-4 eggs

Lilac-breasted rollers are monogamous birds believed to mate for life. Pairs nest solitary and are protective of their nest and one of the pair will fly in a rolling pattern as a territorial display against intruders or to distract nest predators. During courtship, a Lilac-breasted roller will fly upwards and then tip forward with the wings closed, before flapping to gain speed towards the ground. While leveling out at highest speed the bird will roll to the left and right a few times, uttering a harsh, raucous 'kaaa, kaarsh', before swooping up again. The display may end with a harsh chuckling. The breeding season occurs at various times of the year, depending on the location; in Somalia, these birds breed from late April to mid-September. They build flat nests of grass in a baobab, dead coconut, casuarina, or Terminalia tree. The nest is situated in a hollowed-out tree cavity some 5 meters (16 ft) off the ground, or even in the side of a termite mound. Lilac-breasted rollers do not create the cavities themselves but take over nest spaces that have been previously hollowed out by woodpeckers or kingfishers. Females lay 2-4 eggs per breeding season and both partners will take turns incubating the eggs for 22 to 24 days. Hatchlings are born altricial (helpless), becoming fully feathered after 18-20 days. They will remain dependant on their parents for up to another month and will be ready to breed at the age of 2 years.

Population

Population threats

There are no major threats facing the Lilac-breasted roller at present.

Population number

The IUCN Red List and other sources don’t provide the number of the Lilac-breasted roller total population size. Currently, this species is classified as Least Concern (LC) on the IUCN Red List and its numbers today remain stable.

Fun Facts for Kids

  • Lilac-breasted rollers get their name from their impressive courtship flight. During the breeding season, the male rises to a fair height of 69-144 meters (226-472 ft) and then descends in acrobatic swoops and dives, while uttering harsh, discordant cries.
  • Rollers are unique in having syndactyl feet, in which the second and third digits are fused.
  • Lilac-breasted rollers are highly territorial and will defend even small feeding territories.
  • Alternate names for the Lilac-breasted roller include the fork-tailed roller, lilac-throated roller, and Mosilikatze's roller.
  • Lilac-breasted rollers may be confused with the sleeker Abyssinian roller in the Turkana Basin of Kenya, which however has dark blue upper tail coverts, an azure breast and distinctly spatulate tail streamers.

References

1. Lilac-Breasted Roller on Wikipedia - https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Lilac-breasted_roller
2. Lilac-Breasted Roller on The IUCN Red List site - https://www.iucnredlist.org/species/22682874/92966607
3. Xeno-canto bird call - https://xeno-canto.org/611563

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