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biodiversity explorer

the web of life in southern Africa

Family: Coraciidae (rollers)

Life > Eukaryotes > Opisthokonta > Metazoa (animals) > Bilateria > Deuterostomia > Chordata > Craniata > Vertebrata (vertebrates)  > Gnathostomata (jawed vertebrates) > Teleostomi (teleost fish) > Osteichthyes (bony fish) > Class: Sarcopterygii (lobe-finned fish) > Stegocephalia (terrestrial vertebrates) > Tetrapoda (four-legged vertebrates) > Reptiliomorpha > Amniota > Reptilia (reptiles) > Romeriida > Diapsida > Archosauromorpha > Archosauria > Dinosauria (dinosaurs) > Saurischia > Theropoda (bipedal predatory dinosaurs) > Coelurosauria > Maniraptora > Aves (birds) > Order: Coraciiformes

Species indigenous to southern Africa

Coracias caudatus (Lilac-breasted roller) 

The Lilac-breasted roller is found from Eritrea and Somalia south to the northern half of southern Africa, where it is common in dry woodland. It feeds on a wide variety of animals, preferring insects over reptiles, arachnids, birds and rodents. It usually uses cavities in trees as nest sites, 2-8 m above ground, although it is capable of kicking other birds out of their nests. It lays 2-4 eggs, which are incubated by both sexes, for 17-25 days. The chicks stay in the nest for about 19 days, after which it is dependent on its parents for about 20 more days.

Coracias garrulus (European roller) 

The European roller a non-breeding visitor, with breeding grounds in Morocco, Spain, Poland, Siberia and India, with its non-breeding range entirely in sub-Saharan Africa. In southern Africa, it has a scattered distribution range, preferring savanna, such as broad-leaved and Acacia woodland. It eats mainly flying insects, such as termite alates, beetles, and locusts, rarely eating small vertebrates. It hunts from perches, waiting until prey gets close, before pouncing on it.

Coracias naevius (Purple roller) 

The Purple roller is endemic to Africa, being found from Senegal and Gambia to Somalia, extending south to southern Africa. It is widespread but uncommon, living in dry woodland and savanna. It feeds not only on insects but also scorpions, small reptiles, mice and even young birds. Courtship is elaborate, with courtship feeding and acrobatic flight displays commonly recorded. It lays 3-5 eggs, usually a cavity in a (frequently dead) tree,  at least 5 m above ground. It also uses rock crevices and vertical pipes.

Coracias spatulatus (Racket-tailed roller) 

The Racket-tailed roller is endemic to Africa, occupying an area from Tanzania to Angola, south to Zimbabwe Botswana and Mozambique. It prefers mature undisturbed deciduous woodland, especially Miombo, Mopane and Zambezi Teak woodland. Its diet is little known, but it is thought to feed mainly on insects, hunting from low perches, swooping to catch prey once spotted. It is probably a cooperative breeder, nesting in tree cavities about 6-7 m above ground, either natural or excavated by large woodpeckers. There is little more information about its breeding habits, as there have been no large studies done on this species.

Eurystomus glaucurus (Broad-billed roller) 

The Broad-billed roller is found from Senegal east to Somalia, extending south to Zimbabwe, Mozambique, Botswana and north-eastern South Africa. Here it is fairly common in savanna, as well as clearings in woodlands. It is a specialist predator, mainly eating swarming termite and ant alates, as well as beetles and bugs. It mainly nests in unlined cavities in trees 5-15 m above ground. It also nests in holes of barns (recorded in Zimbabwe). It lays 2-4 eggs, timing laying to coincide with the emergence of insects after rain.