The Lilac-breasted Roller, also known as Coracias caudatus, is an African bird categorized under the family Coraciidae or Roller Bird family. Bird species from the Roller Bird family are known for their unique ability to perform aerial acrobatics during flight, consisting of side-to-side rolling motions and quick, shallow dives from high altitudes. This colorful bird is endemic to sub-Saharan Africa, and is vagrant to the southern Arabian Peninsula.
The Lilac-breasted Roller is a dear national treasure of Kenya, wherein it is considered a national symbol. This bird species is probably the only bird species that, when sighted, will provoke as much crooning as the sight of a cheetah or a lion, because of its striking, wonderful colors.
This bird species was first described by Carl Linnaeus, the father of modern taxonomy, in 1766. Two subspecies are acknowledged:
- c. caudatus – Found in central Kenya, northern South Africa, and the Atlantic coasts of Angola and Namibia.
- c. lorti – Also known as the Lilac-throated Roller or Blue-breasted Roller, this can be found in western Somalia, northeastern Kenya, and Eritrea.
Their population is at a stable rise and appears in an extensive range. Therefore, the International Union for the Conservation of Nature and Natural Resources (IUCN) Red List categorized them as Least Concern.
Its eight levels of scientific classification are as follows:
Species: C. caudatus
The physical characteristics of a Lilac-breasted Roller
The Lilac-breasted Roller is a robust, large-headed bird with colorful plumage tones. The nominate subspecies, the C. c. caudatus has a darker lilac breast. In subspecies C. c. lorti, however, its crown and mantle are olive in color, while its breast is color azure. It has a lilac patch or rufous-brown streaks in the lower abdomen. Both subspecies have long, black outermost tail streamers.
Lilac-breasted Rollers are not sexually dimorphic, although males may be slightly larger than females. The average weight of an adult Lilac-breasted Roller is 104 grams, and it measures from 36 to 38 cm. It has a wingspan range of 50 to 48 cm.
The distribution and habitat of Lilac-breasted Rollers
Lilac-breasted Rollers are native to eastern and southern Africa, particularly in Eritrea, Kenya, Botswana, Namibia, Burundi, Malawi, Mozambique, Zimbabwe, and northeastern South Africa. Some populations are non-migratory, while others migrate from Kenya to Somalia to breed from April to September. They frequent in open savannahs with scattered shrubs and trees. Frequently, they occur in riverine vegetation, light forests, and sub-desert steppes. In protected areas, they frequent roads, but usually, they avoid human-influenced areas.
The behavior of a Lilac-breasted Roller
This bird species is famous for being a fearless creature, not fearing humans in the same way many birds do. It is its primary hunting technique. Once it detects prey, it will quickly swoop down on the prey, and if the prey is too large to be swallowed whole, it will discombobulate it using its wings.
Lilac-breasted Rollers are active during the daytime—they are usually solitary or with a pair. They perch conspicuously atop of poles, trees, and other high vantage points. They join other bird species such as Taita Fiscals, Pale Flycatchers, Kites, Storks, and Swallows to take opportunity of grassland fires.
They are monogamous birds that form bonds that last for life. Pairs nest solitarily and are very protective of their nests, which are often built in baobab, dead coconut, or Terminalia trees. Couples will usually fly in a rolling pattern as a territorial display or to ward off intruders away from their territory. During courtship, a bird will fly upwards, with its tip forward and wings closed, before flapping its wings to speed up towards the ground. During this moment, the bird will release a harsh call before flying upwards again. The breeding season occurs depending on the location. A female Lilac-breasted Roller will lay 2-4 eggs, which will be incubated by the pair for 22 to 24 days. Hatchlings are born featherless and helpless and turns fully feathered after 18-20 days.
The diet of a Lilac-breasted Roller
This bird species feeds on small invertebrates and arthropods like spiders, scorpions, millipedes, centipedes, and snails. They prefer wandering and perching around burned grasslands to search for insects that have been unearthed out of the undergrowth. They also feed on sluggish lizards, snakes, and chameleons.
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