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Coraciidae – Rollers

coraciidae
Lilac-breasted Roller in South Africa: Photo by Kojo Baidoo

The Coraciidae, or rollers, are a family of strikingly colorful birds known for their distinctive rolling flight pattern, where they execute a series of mid-air somersaults during territorial displays or courtship rituals. These medium-sized birds inhabit a variety of habitats across Africa, Asia, and Europe, often favoring open woodlands, savannas, and scrublands. Renowned for their vibrant plumage and melodious calls, rollers are predominantly insectivorous, capturing their prey on the wing or from perches. They typically nest in natural cavities or excavated burrows, where they raise their young in small family groups.

Overview of Coraciidae

Compact birds characterized by their robust build, broad wings, and sturdy bills, rollers are renowned for their patient hunting strategy, often perching quietly before pouncing on large insects, invertebrates, or even small vertebrates. Their name stems from their mesmerizing aerial displays, during which they plummet towards the ground with their wings and body rolling in a distinctive fashion. While many exhibit a striking light blue hue with patches of deeper blue, some species boast a more earthy brown coloration. Dollarbirds, distinguished by the gleaming white patches on their wings, sport a darker plumage compared to other members of the family. Nesting in cavities, they lay spherical, white eggs, typical of coraciiform birds.