Scientific name: Coracias caudatus, the Lilac-Breasted Roller is a member of the Coraciidae roller family. This bird is mostly found in parts of East and South Africa.
This gorgeous, jewel colored bird has a proportionately large bird with a sturdy little black beak. Its blue head is contrasted by sunset colored cheeks.
The most distinguishable part of the bird is its vibrant, lilac chest that goes lighter as it gets closer to its throat.
The wings of the Lilac-breasted Roller span 50cm up to 58cm tip to tip. The mesmerizing dark blue color of the anterior wings perfectly complements the ocean-blue of the inner part of its wings.
It also has a dark blue colored, forked tail that ends in black streamers. The scaly, yellowish legs of this bird end in durable syndactyl feet where the 2nd and 3rd toes are fused.
Mature male and female Lilac-breasted rollers are similar in coloring though male birds are considerably larger than their female counterparts.
On the other hand, the young bird of this specie are differently colored than the mature rollers. Their tails don't have black streamers and their abdomen and chests are reddish brown instead of lilac.
It's also believed that the Lilac-breasted rollers mate for life and because of this some countries in Africa use the bird's feather in an interesting marriage ritual!
Their name originates from their mating display which involves a lot of complicated dives and swoops. They initially fly 10 meters up and then swoop down fast with their wings closed.
They then maneuver side to side as they are flying fast accompanied by their loud and harsh cries to attract their potential mate.
After a successful mating, it only takes 22 to 24 days for the eggs of the female bird to hatch. Their young can't care for themselves so it's up to their parents to make sure they survive.
Approximately 19 days since they've been hatched, the plumes of the young roller will grow. They will remain under their parents care for another month before going off on their own.
The Lilac-breasted Roller only lays 2 to 4 eggs in a year.
These birds prefer to live on trees, tall posts, and generally avoid sparsely treed areas. They are not typically seen in places with heavy human traffic.
Though not aggressive, these birds are territorial. If any human or predator gets close to their nest, even when they don't have eggs, you can expect the Lilac-breasted Roller to attack.
Their colorful feathers are used in many African rituals. Historically, it's been said that some African Tribes consider these birds as symbols of peace.
Kings and chieftains of tribes will sacrifice a Lilac-breasted Roller to celebrate the end of war.
In another ritual, a young Zulu couple seeking to marry will be given a rope woven with the colorful feathers of the bird. They will then be tied together.
If the chain breaks it means they can't work together therefore they cannot marry.
Contrast to it's jovial colors, this bird enjoys hunting during brush fires. They hunt the little insects and rodents trying to flee the inferno.
They feed on beetles, grasshoppers, snails, lizards, and smaller birds. These birds beat their prey into submission using their wings and swallow them whole.
Still, this beautiful bird, a symbol of peace is Kenya's national bird alongside the rooster!
With it's beautiful colors and deep ties to some of Africa's historical traditions, the Lilac-Breasted Roller is truly one of nature's most beautiful creatures. It's worthy to be a part of any bird-watcher's must see.
Even if you're not an avian enthusiast, when you get a chance to see this magnificent bird, don't hesitate and jump on the opportunity. Of course, you have to share your rare experience with us and don't forget to take lots of pictures!