Purple Roller (Coracias naevius [Coracias naevia])
Somewhere near Timbavati picnic spot, April 2004.
French: Rollier varié
Africa from Senegal, Mauritania and Gambia East to Ethiopia and Somalia and South to the northern parts of South Africa. Absent in forest areas in western and central Africa.
The Purple Roller is a large, heavily built roller with a square tail. Its size (33-38 cm) makes it the largest roller of the region and it is easily identified by its broad pale eyebrow stripe and lilac-brown underparts heavily streaked with white. The upperparts are olive-green. Male and female look alike. Juvenile resembles the adult but is duller.
A rather quiet and somewhat sluggish bird. When displaying it flies with an exaggerated side-to-side, rocking motion as if wings beating unevenly, first rising, then falling like paper kite out of control. Display is accompanied by calls.
Usually solitary or in pairs. It normally perches on dead trees or telephone wires for long periods, and catches its prey on the ground. Its diet consists of insects, small reptiles and scorpions.
A harsh "karaa-karaa", uttered repeatedly in display flight.
Dry thornveld and open, broadleafed woodland.
September to December. A nest is built in a natural hole in a tree. Old Woodpeckers nests are taken over too. Clutch: 2-4 eggs, incubation is unrecorded.
Scarce to fairly common resident with local movements.
Not globally threatened. There is evidence of decreasing numbers (del Hoyo et al. 2001), but the species is not believed to approach the >30% population decline criteria for the 2005 IUCN Red List. Therefore the bird is placed in the LC (Least Concern) category.