Most of us are quite aware that the Lilac-breasted roller is the national bird of Kenya, but how many of us have stopped to learn the unique facts about the stunningly pretty bird that stands out in colour from other birds? As the bird is rare, that is how its characters are. And you don’t want to miss out on its distinctively eccentric attributes. Here are the top 10 facts you need to learn about the special bird, lilac-breasted roller:
1. The Lilac-breasted roller is an African bird, belonging to the roller family of birds. It can be found widely in sub-Saharan Africa and the southern Arabian Peninsula.
2. Like most birds, the Kenyan lilac-breasted roller loves open woodland and savanna better than anywhere else and as a result, it stays away from treeless places. Despite this, they are highly sociable, friendly and unscared of humans. You can get pretty close to a lilac breasted roller and it wouldn’t bother to fly off.
3. Normally seen alone or in pairs, it perches visibly at the tops of trees, poles or other high vantage points from where it can easily catch sight of insects, lizards, scorpions, snails, small birds and rodents wandering around at ground level.
4. The specially coloured bird nests in a natural hole in a tree where a clutch of 2–4 eggs are laid. After laying of eggs, both parents take part in incubating the laid eggs and in providing massive security to the eggs. They do this by being severely aggressive in defence of their nest, fending off raptors and other birds. The incubation period spans from 22 to 24 days and, it is expected that a lilac breasted roller on average, would live up to about 10 years.
5. At the time of breeding, the male will rise to great heights, plunging in darts and dives, while letting out harsh, jarring cries. The bird got its name from this behaviour. Interestingly, there are reasons to believe that the birds are monogamous. That is, they mate with only one partner at a time. Both sexes have the same colouration only that young ones do not boast long tail feathers that adults do.
6. As with national birds, the Lilac-breasted roller is one of the national symbols of Kenya – though there is no official record as to what our national bird ought to be. However, we can, on one hand, name the distinctive symbols which made tourists give it its name. There is no shock that Kenya is naturally ornamented and beautiful with fertile land like the birds. Plus the bird is a rare one and is not easily found around the world, signifying that Kenya is a rare place to visit for its unique package of tourism.
7. Though found throughout southern and eastern Africa, the range of Lilac-breasted rollers stretches from the Red Sea coast of Ethiopia through to southern Africa, where they are common in Namibia (excluding the Namib Desert), Botswana, Zimbabwe, and northeastern South Africa, the bird is very much abundant in Kenya.
8. Being a non-migratory bird, the Lilac-breasted roller does not migrate like its counterpart, the lilac-throated roller that moves from northeast Kenya to northwest Somalia to breed from late April to mid-September. It stays in Kenya and breeds in Kenya.
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9. Lilac-breasted rollers keep off from human-influenced areas, that explains why they are hardly seen in urban or rural areas except they are dumped. Usually seen in protected areas, the bird is rarely seen outside protected areas such as national parks when farmers burn land for agricultural use. Of course, bush burning chases out insects and other invertebrates from their homes, and birds can be seen pouncing in for easy prey.
10. However, both Lilac-breasted and lilac-throated rollers live in grassland habitats surrounded by trees and shrubs. This is so because the birds make use of higher roosts for feeding and nesting. In as much as they love protected areas, Lilac-breasted rollers are commonly seen along roads and paths as roads provide an ideal borderline habitat for the birds to perch and search for prey.
Beyond the foregoing, you should know that the lilac-breasted rollers are sometimes called fork-tailed roller or Mosilikatze’s roller. Even, some people regard them as the lilac-throated roller. A name which is also used for another bird in the subspecies of the Purple-roller. Apart from the lilac-throated rollers, other birds that look like the lilac-breasted roller includes the European and Indian roller, the Abyssinian roller and the racket-tailed roller.
Above all, the lilac-breasted rollers aren’t one of those animals we have to worry about them being endangered and going extinct. Although the birds are being poached and traded its population remains stable.