Lilac-breasted Roller (Coracias caudatus)

Lilac-breasted Rollers are medium-sized, 15" (38cm) birds with lilac cheeks, throat and breast. The breast is overlaib by strong white lines. The forehead and chin are white. A white stripe over the eye (supercilium). Eyes are brown. The crown and nape are greenish-blue. The belly is blue. The mantle and scapulars (feathers between wing and back) are olive-brown. The 'shoulders' and rump are dark violet. The bend of the wing is dark blue. Adults have long tail streamers that are blue-green. In flight, the underwings are brilliant blue, with broad black wing-tips. The slightly decurved, hook-tipped bill is black. Legs and feet are pale greenish-yellow. Immature birds are duller.
There are two sub-species. C. c. caudata (described above) and C. c. lorti with no lilac on breast.

Lilac-breasted Rollers are spectacularily coloured, particularly in flight, when it shows its kaleidoscope of colours. They gained their name 'Roller' from their exuberant 'rolling' in flight, even performing 'loop-the-loop' displays. They are usually seen solitary, occasionally in pairs. They perch prominently, out in the open. They nest in tree holes, usually old Kingfisher or Woodpecker nests, occasionally in old termite mounds and are agressive towards animals or birds coming near the nest, regardless of size. Despite which, they are confiding birds, confident in the company of humans and some camps in Kenya feed them by hand. Lilac-breasted Rollers have weak legs and feet, so breed in the air. An average of 3 eggs are laid and both parents incubate the eggs for 3 weeks. The youngsters are tended by both parents and fledge after a further 3 weeks.

Lilac-breasted Rollers eat insects, beetles, grasshoppers, crickets and other invertebrates. Occasionally they take Lizards and small birds. They drop down from their perch silently and eat their prey on the ground, battering it to death on the ground if it is large. They toss large prey into the air, clamping down on it with their predator bills when catching, to break it up before swallowing. Only occasionally do they hawk their prey in the air.

Lilac-breasted Rollers C. c. caudata are seen in Northern Kenya, below 2,000 metres, up to Mt Elgon NP & Maralal and as far east as Tana River. C. c. lorti are migrants from Somalia, between January & March, seen in Kenya as far west as Marsabit in the north and Tsavo in the south. These birds favour bushed or wooded grasslands.

Extra Lilac-breasted Roller Facts
Lilac-breasted Rollers are generally silent, except when chasing animals or birds from the nest, which is accompanied by their throaty call "kerrrk~kerrrk~kerrrk".
Lilac-breasted Rollers have a reversible outer toe.

Photographed at Kenya's Masai Mara and Olare Orok Conservancy.
Lilac-breasted Roller, perched prominently, side-on in Kenya's Masai Mara.Lilac-breasted Roller, about to fly, with its wings open, showing the beautiful blue on its back.A Lilac-breasted Roller, standing side-on to the camera, showing all its colours.A Lilac-breasted Roller, flying across bushed grasslands in Kenya's Masai Mara.An aggressive-looking Lilac-breasted Roller, with its head turned, perched on a leafy bush.Lilac-breasted Roller, tossing a flying Cricket into the air.Lilac-breasted Roller showing off a flying Cricket it had just caught in its bill.Lilac-breasted Roller throwing flying Cricket into the air.Immature Lilac-breasted Roller, perched on Termite mound, preying on the insects.