Racket-tailed Roller

Information about the Bird Racket-tailed Roller

The racket-tailed roller (Coracias spatulatus) is a species of bird in the Coraciidae family. It is found in Angola, Botswana, Democratic Republic of the Congo, Malawi, Mozambique, Namibia, South Africa, Swaziland, Tanzania, Zambia, and Zimbabwe.

The racket-tailed roller is so-named for its conspicuous elongated outer feathers on its tail which are have long streamers ending in paddle-shaped tips. The bird is 28 to 30cm (11 to 12in) long with the streamers extending another 8cm (3in). The forehead and superciliary streak are white, the crown dull green, the back rufous and the tail blue. The underparts are pale blue with whitish streaking. In flight, the purple upper wing with its azure-blue stripe can be seen. The under wing is pale blue with a purplish-black trailing edge and tip. The bird somewhat resembles the European roller (Coracias garrulus) and the lilac-breasted roller (Coracias caudatus), but those species lack the distinctive tail streamers. The beak is black, the eye brownish and the legs are dull yellowish. The juvenile is similar to the adult but less vivid, and lacks the attenuated tail feathers. The voice is a harsh gutteral shriek, uttered as it swoops down.
The racket-tailed roller hunts for prey from a perch in the mid-storey region of woodland. When it spots something edible on the forest floor it swoops down to grab the prey. The diet consists mainly of grasshoppers, beetles, insect larvae, scorpions and small lizards. This roller is usually a solitary bird or occurs in pairs, but may form small groups of six or seven birds. It is a territorial species, driving away intruders by diving from a height in a curious rolling manner, rocking from side to side, before using its momentum to rise to a perch. It nests in a cavity in a tree trunk or branch about 7m (23ft) off the ground, often using a disused nest of a woodpecker or barbet. The clutch is laid in the unlined cavity and usually consists of three or four eggs, but little is known of the nesting habits of this species.
The racket-tailed roller is a fairly common species with a very wide range. The population trend is thought to be declining because of loss of the forest habitat, especially miombo and mopane woodland. However, no particular threats have been identified and the International Union for Conservation of Nature has assessed the bird's conservation status as being of "least concern".

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