Lilac Breasted Roller

April 18, 2015

The lilac-breasted roller is the national bird of both Kenya and Botswana and is considered one of the world’s most beautiful birds with its pastel plumage, striking field marks and long tail streamers. It is a member of the roller family of birds and is widely distributed in sub-Saharan Africa and the southern Arabian Peninsula preferring open woodland and savanna. The average size of this bird is 14.5 inches. Its washed green head is large, the neck is short and the greenish yellow legs are short and small feet. The beak is strong, arched and hooked-tipped. The tail is narrow and of medium length. The back and scapulars are brown. The shoulder of the wing, outer webs of the flight feathers and the rump are all violet. The underparts are greenish blue. The bill is black and the eyes are brown. It has large wings and strong flight.

Genders are similar with a white or creamy buff face with a dark eye line and prominent rictal bristles. The chin is white, auriculars are dark tan with a purple wash and the throat and upper breast are purple, most often a lilac shade but with some hue variation and darker shades lower on the body.

2015-0406 Lilac Breasted Roller

This bird is usually absent from treeless places and is usually found alone or in pairs where it perches conspicuously at the tops of trees, poles or other high vantage points where it can spot lizards, scorpions, snails, smaller birds and insects moving around at ground level. The Lilac Breasted Roller feeds on grasshoppers, beetles, occasionally lizards, crabs, and small amphibians taking their prey from the ground.
Lilac-breasted Roller: Photo by Photographer Louis Blair –

Lilac-breasted Roller

The lilac-breasted roller makes its nests in a natural hole in a tree where a clutch of 2 to 4 eggs is laid and incubated by both parents who can get extremely aggressive in defending their nest from other raptors and predators. The male will rise to great heights, descending in swoops and dives during the breeding season uttering harsh cry. They are territorial, also defending temporarily small feeding territories; hence individuals are regularly spaced along roads. They drive off many species from near their nest hole, even after breeding.

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