Throughout sub-Saharan Africa the Lilac-breasted Roller graces the savannah grasses. Although it is fairly abundant, I never tire of this beauty.
Not only does this bird display a rainbow of colors including lilac and turquoise, it has an aerial specialty of rolling through the air. It is in the Roller family and thus named for its rolling courtship or territorial flight patterns. The Rollers are strictly Old World birds, and mostly seen in Africa. I have seen several of the eleven species of this bird family, but this species gets my personal vote for most beautiful.
Coracias caudatus is often seen perched on limbs or snags waiting for insects. Hunting on the wing, it dives and spins in a glorious whir of colors. A crow-sized bird, it primarily hunts for insects, carrying the catch back to its perch and killing it; but they are also known to hunt small invertebrates like lizards and snakes.
Safari viewing is one of my favorite things to do in all the world, but it is not a fast-paced activity. Waiting for animals to race across the savannah chasing after prey is not at all like we see on TV nature programs. The truth is even waiting for a lion to stand up after waking from a nap can take a long time; it requires patience and a fair amount of sitting.
That’s when the Lilac-breasted Roller is a delightful diversion, for they are always hunting, always busy, and always a kaleidoscope of colors among the hot, dry, endless expanse of grass.
Photo credit: Athena Alexander