Purple Roller (Coracias naevius)

It is a bushy roller with distinct white eyebrows, and pale purple-cinnamon plumage, dappled with white streaks. Its blue wings and tail are conspicuous when it performs its rolling gymnastic flight displays. Often seen singly or in pairs, these birds thrive in open savannas, such as drier woodlands and thornveld. While it is mostly resident, it may take in seasonal movements in certain parts of its range.

Read further to know more about the Purple Roller.

What is a Purple Roller?

Purple Roller (Coracias naevius) or Rufous-crowned Roller is a medium-sized bird belonging to the Old World family of the Coraciidae. Rollers are called, such as due to the aerial acrobatic they perform during territorial and courtship flights. This specific bird species spread throughout sub-Saharan Africa but is distinguished from other rollers through its duller colors and harsh, rasping voice.

Its seven levels of classification are as follows:

Kingdom: Animalia

Phylum: Chordata

Class: Aves

Order: Coraciiformes

Family: Coraciidae

Genus: Coracias

Species: C. naevius

Purple Roller Physical Description

Purple Rollers are stocky, medium-sized birds, growing from 13.7 to 15.7 centimeters and weighing around 160 grams. Both sexes look similar, appearing dark brown with white eyebrows from a distance or poor light conditions. A white patch also occurs on the nape while their tails are dark. Sides of the head appear to purplish-pink brown, heavily-dappled with white, while belly, undertail tetrices, and lower flanks are unspeckled. Meanwhile, flight feathers are blue to black. Upperwing tetrices are pale pink, while lesser coverts are dark purple. They have long, rounded wings. Bill is black, and legs and feet have an olive-brown color.

Where can they be spotted?

Purple Rollers thrives in the inner area of open woodlands, bushveld, thornveld, or hot, low-lying grounds. They are endemic to Africa, widespread in the sub-Saharan region, but sparse in dense wooded dry habitats.

Interesting Facts You Should Know About the Purple Roller

Purple rollers primarily feed on insects, scorpions, spiders, and small lizards they can get on the ground. They hunt by spending long periods perching on top of poles or thorn trees. Other food items it consumes include locusts, mantids, grasshoppers, ants, beetles, small reptiles, and occasionally mice and young birds.

These birds perform distinct to-and-fro movements during its longitudinal flights, while continually making disturbingly harsh and loud calls. They start from treetops before nosediving towards the ground in a rolling flight. Thus, their name.

Purple rollers are monogamous, territorial, nesting solitarily. Breeding season usually occurs from October and June, though, may vary depending on the range, possibly linked to the rains. They nest in natural cavities, such as in trees, cliffs, pipes, and riverbanks.

The female purple roller usually lays a clutch of thee eggs, which both parents will incubate, feed, and tend. They are pugnacious and will chase and ward off other rollers, small hawks, and crows.

Purple Rollers has a wide range and does not reach the threshold for declines. The bird species is classified as Least Concern under the International Union for Conservation of Nature Red List.



Central Kalahari Game Reserve

Chobe National Park

Linyanti Swamp

Makgadikgadi Pan

Mashatu Game Reserve

Okavango Delta

Moremi Game Reserve



Hluhluwe Game Reserves

Kalahari Gemsbok National Park

Kruger National Park

St Lucia Wetlands


Caprivi Region

Etosha National Park



Lechwe Plains

Lower Zambezi

South Luangwa

Mosi-oa-Tunya National Park




Lake Kariba

Mana Pools

Matobo Hills

Victoria Falls


Purple Roller