8 Facts about Lilac-breasted Rollers – The Most Gorgeous Birds in the World

The lilac-breasted roller is one of the most stunning birds in the world. Its colorful feather coat makes it stand out among hundreds of bird species. Besides the pastel appearance, there’re lots of interesting things about this bird. Here are our top 8 facts about lilac-breasted rollers to help you understand how awesome this bird is.

Scientific name: Coracias caudatus
Phylum: Mollusca
Class: Cephalopoda
Order: Octopoda
Genus: Opisthoteuthis

1. Lilac-breasted rollers are one of the most colorful birds

The lilac-breasted rollers are also called “rainbow rollers.” This is because they have multiple colors on their bodies. The species have about 8 different colors: reddish brown, yellow, dark blue, turquoise, green, lilac, black, and white. Those colors mix, creating a gorgeous type of bird.

The lilac-breasted roller has a green head and a white chin. There’s a yellow or white band over the eyes and a black beak. It has a deep violet breast that becomes brighter towards the throat. Their forked tail is turquoise and finished with black streamers.

The thorax and the underneath of the wings are also turquoise, while the underside of the wings is bordered in deep blue. The upper portion of the wings is reddish brown with royal blue trim.

The cute lilac-breasted roller’s top legs are decorated with turquoise feathers, whereas its bottom legs and foot are yellowish, naked, and scabby.

There are many more Colorful animals from different species, that you may be interested in:

The male and female lilac-breasted rollers are both the same colors, while colors in the young are duller. The juveniles lack the black stripes and they have reddish-brown breasts and throats. Their colors do not fully come out until they reach adulthood.

There are 2 subspecies: C.c. caudatus and C.c. lorti. The second is also known as the “blue-breasted roller” or “lilac-throated roller.” The two subspecies dwell in different sections of Africa, they do not crossover the ranges of each other.

2. They are Kenya’s National Bird

Because of the variety of colors on its plumage, the lilac-breasted roller earned the title of Kenya’s national bird. Their multiple colors represent the various tribes that comprise Kenya’s community.

Scientists have not yet estimated the population of the bird, but they believe it is steady. They are not classified as endangered species.

3. Habitat

The lilac-breasted rollers are primarily found in Sub-Saharan Africa, but they also live in the Arabian Peninsula’s southernmost region. Northeastern South Africa, Botswana, Zimbabwe, Kenya, and most of Namibia, with the exception of the Namib Desert, are the common home of the bird.

A lilac-breasted roller is flying

This species can reside anywhere from sea level to slightly more than 2000 meters (6562 feet) above sea level. They tend to live in scrublands and open forests where there are trees for them to perch and nest. Open meadow, sub-desert steppe, light woodland, and riverine vegetation could be their choice, but not often. Places without trees are not their favorites.

Although lilac-breasted rollers are not afraid of humans, they avoid human-affected habitats such as towns and rural areas.

Most lilac-breasted rollers don’t migrate, however, some of them can move to northwest Somalia from late April to mid-September to mate.

4. They are not dimorphic animals

Dimorphic animals are creatures that have distinct visual differences between the two sexes. You can see the distinction clearly in some species like humans, peacocks, spiders, baboons, etc. And lilac-breasted rollers don’t belong to this group. 

Lilac-breasted roller male vs female

It’s hard to tell the difference between a male and a female lilac-breasted roller. They have the typical size body, about 37 cm in length. This already includes their 9-centimeter tail. Their wingspan ranges between 50 and 58 cm. This makes the lilac-breasted bird the longest member of the roller family.

5. They have a unique hunting technique

Lilac-breasted rollers mostly feed on insects such as beetles and grasshoppers. Their diet also includes snails, centipedes, scorpions, millipedes, spiders, small lizards, rodents, and other birds.

To look for food, these birds will perch on high places (like telephone poles, treetops, or on top of large herbivorous animals) to keep an eye out for prey.

When spotting prey or something, they will swoop down and use their beaks to catch prey. If their prey is small, they will consume all of it there. However, if the prey is too large to eat, they will bring it back to the perch, and use their wings to beat it until it’s broken and fit their beaks.

One of the special things about the lilac-breasted roller is that these birds are intelligent and brave enough to use brush fires to forage. When there is a brush fire, insects and tiny animals will get out of the undergrowths and escape from the flame.

The rollers, as well as other perch hunters like Taita fiscals and Pale flycatchers, will take advantage of this opportunity to swoop down on their prey.

The principal predators of the lilac-breasted roller are birds of prey. They can be eaten by the red-necked falcon, the Bateleur, Wahlberg’s eagle, and the peregrine.

6. They are named for their rolling ability

The roller bird family is a species of Old World bird. They are named after their extraordinary ability to execute aerial acrobatics while in flight. These birds can roll from side to side, and make shallow dives from great heights quickly, followed by loud and piercing calls.

The call of these lilac rollers is extremely harsh. During the flight, these colorful birds make a sharp, sawing ‘rak rak rak’ sound. It doesn’t last long, just less than a second, and repeats constantly. These birds are largely quiet, except for the mating season or when their territories are threatened. you can hear them call in the video below.

The lilac-breasted roller is also called the fork-tailed roller, Mosilkatze’s roller, and the lilac-throated roller.

7. Males and Females do Parental Duties together

The lilac-breasted birds is monogamous, they mate for life. In the wild, they’re usually alone or with their partners. In the winter, the birds may gather in tiny family groupings.

The breeding season varies depending on where the birds live. In Somalia, their mating time occurs from late April to mid-September.

To impress the female, the male will perform mating displays. It will soar up for about 10 meters (33 feet) before swooping down with its wings folded. Before flying up again with the highest speed, the male will roll to the right and then roll to the left, screaming a harsh, noisy ‘kaaa, kaarsh’. The performance could end with a loud chuckle. If the breeding ritual can attract the female, they will procreate while in flight.

Lilac-breasted rollers prefer to nest in trees like baobab, casuarina, Terminalia, and dead coconut. They do not make the cavities themselves but rather seek out trees with natural holes to stay there. They may also nest in termite mounds or abandoned holes of woodpeckers or kingfishers.

The female lays 2-4 eggs per year, both males and females will alternately incubate the eggs. After 22 to 24 days, the eggs hatch and they are unable to move; parents have to take care of them. It takes around 19 days for the newborn lilac-breasted rollers’ feathers to fully develop. The chicks will stay with their parents for another month. At the age of 2 years old, they reach sexual maturity and are ready to breed.

The estimated lifespan of the lilac-breasted roller is about 10 years. In captivity, they can live longer.

8. They are symbols of peace and love

There are lots of folklore about lilac-breasted rollers in African cultures. In the past, some African tribes regarded this bird as a sign of peace, and their monarchs would sacrifice it to mark the end of a war and announce peace in their region.

They also represent a strong bond between love and marriage.

To check the compatibility of a young pair, the Zulu uses lilac-breasted roller feathers to make chains or ropes. These chains and ropes will be wrapped around the wrists of a couple who wished to marry. If the feathered band is intact, the couple is compatible. But if the band breaks apart, it’s not the time for them to get married.

The Venda used the bird’s feathers to make wedding rings. The Afrikaners, descendants of Dutch colonists in South Africa, have traditionally decorated bridal gowns with the feathers of this bird.

The numerous marriage traditions may have been influenced by the concept that the lilac roller mates for life. The Afrikaans phrase for this lovely purple bird is “troupand,” which means “wedding band.”  


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