Bird of the Week: Lilac-breasted Roller

After my last post, I decided to make the Lilac-breasted Roller my bird of the week – one of the birds that I was very eager to see when I moved to Zambia.  I saw a glimpse of one from a vehicle within a few weeks or perhaps a couple months of arriving  but did not get a really good view until a few months after that.

Rollers get their name from their territorial and courtship display flights which involve a rocking motion from side to side as they pull themselves up from a sharp dive. They hunt from a perch and eat mostly insects taken from the ground or sometimes in flight.  (Beat about the Bush: Birds by Trevor Carnaby)

Lilac-breasted Rollers are so colorful that they almost look unreal, that is, they look “made-up” or fake.  I liked the description that one of my co-workers used that they “look like you might expect a coloring book picture would look like when colored in by a three-year-old.”  They have a green nape, brown back, blue wings and belly, orange ear coverts and, of course, a lilac breast.

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When they are perched they are beautiful to look at, but it is when they take off that you truly see how amazing they are.  It is hard to capture in a photograph, but they have two vivid tones of blue on both sides of their wings. Their brown back becomes obscured and they become a flash of blue lightning.

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Photos by Jonathan Moeller

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