Bird Bios: Lilac-Breasted Roller Takes Prize for Most Colorful Bird in Africa

April 06, 2012
Blog Image

International Expeditions’ Kenya & Tanzania safari affords you the chance to see some of the world’s most iconic creatures, from elephants and giraffes to hippos and many different bird species. The lilac-breasted roller is one of the most colorful creatures flying soaring above East Africa, and its stunning hues make this bird a great addition to any birding list. Lilac-breasted rollers can be found across most of sub-Saharan Africa, but they avoid areas occupied by humans, so IE’s small-group safaris to the region’s less-visited parks increase your chance of spotting these pretty birds.

This bird stands about 14.5 inches tall and, as the name suggests, has pale purple feathers on its chest, with a few tangerine and white feathers mixed in. The face is a very light, nearly yellow that fades into green. The bird's backside is a golden brown, and this color extends slightly to the wings. The long, narrow tail is a brilliant aquamarine, as is the rest of the bird's body. When the lilac-breasted roller takes to the skies, you will be able to see its stunning wings. From below, the white wings appear to have been dipped in royal blue ink. From above, the tips are still vividly blue, but there is some teal coloration as well.

Rollers are named after their habit of twirling and somersaulting during courtship. They will dive suddenly during flight when trying to attract mates, and make loud calls while doing so. These birds actually breed while in flight. When it comes time to make a nest for their eggs, these birds will often steal tree nest-holes from woodpeckers and other tree-dwelling birds.

Lilac-breasted rollers feed primarily on insects such as grasshoppers, but they also snack on small amphibians, lizards and crabs. In fact, lilac-breasted rollers have also been observed to feed on animals fleeing from forest fires, as they are fast fliers. They stick to grasslands and other open spaces, so travelers should pay extra close attention to the trees during their African safaris. Lilac-breasted rollers spend most of their time flying, but they will alight on a branch while hunting or feeding.


For the latest travel trends and exciting discoveries., visit our East Africa Safari Travel News section.