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Written by: Taher Nassrulla on 14 September 2016

The lilac-breasted roller – what a pretty bird

Lilac breasted roller

The lilac-breasted roller (Coracias caudatus) belongs to the roller family of birds and can be found in sub-Saharan Africa and the Arabian Peninsula. Its habitat are savannahs and open woodlands, but it cannot be found in treeless areas.

What stands out most about the lilac-breasted roller is by far its colour. It has a greenish head, lilac throat and breast, a blue belly and even brighter wing feathers. Both males and females have the same colouration.

Like other rollers, lilac-breasted rollers are extremely territorial. They protect their nest fiercely and are not even afraid to chase away raptors. It is said that the lilac-breasted roller is monogamous; pairs build their nests in natural tree holes as well as termite mounds or unoccupied kingfisher and woodpecker nests. Both males and females incubate the two to four eggs, which are laid at a time. The incubation lasts for roughly 22 to 24 days, after which the chicks are born totally dependent on the parents. The chicks grow their feathers 19 days after hatching.

In terms of diet, lilac-breasted rollers eat mainly insects, but will occasionally eat small reptiles. In the Serengeti, I have even seen them eating a small snake! These birds love to perch high on bushes and trees. From there, they have a great vantage point to scour the land below for food.


What’s most fascinating about these birds is their courtship behaviour. They fly up high, then dive performing loops and twists before reaching the ground whilst making loud croaking calls. Males are also amazing belly dancers; they sit on a perch with their heads stock-still, swaying their bodies back and forth. They truly know how to please their mates.

Unfortunately, the calls of these birds are not as nice as their colours. They have very harsh vocals, which can often be heard when they are approaching a perch.

These beautiful birds can be found all over Tanzania and when you are on safari in places like the Serengeti and Tarangire National Park you are bound to see them doing what they do best: Perching in the trees.

We are not the only ones who are impressed by the colourful bird: The Kenyans made the lilac-breasted roller their national bird.

Author: Taher Nassrulla

Born in East Africa, Taher was intrigued by the natural and geographical diversity of the African bush from a young age. After spending some time in Europe, he returned to Tanzania in 2004 to start a new chapter in his life. Since then he has been spending as much time as possible in the bush, learning. Taher speaks English, Kiswahili and German fluently and is a passionate photographer. Using the skills he has learnt over the years, he now takes tourists out on safari as a German-speaking tour leader and guide.

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