Coraciidae – Rollers

Crow-size, beautifully colored birds; performing acrobatic tactics during their flight

With its dazzling array of medium-sized birds known as rollers, it is renowned for its members’ vividly painted plumage and acrobatic flight displays. These birds, which inhabit regions spanning Europe, Africa, Asia, Australia, and the South Pacific islands, possess a stocky build and a charming combination of colors that can include shades of pink, blue, and brown. Like kingfishers, to whom they are related, rollers have a robust structure with a large head, a relatively small bill, and long, expressive tail feathers.

One of roller birds’ most distinctive anatomical features is the syndactyly of their feet, where two of their toes are fused together, providing a strong grip ideal for perching on branches as they scout for food. This adaptation is particularly beneficial for their hunting strategy, which involves perching motionlessly at a vantage point to spot potential prey before swooping down to precisely capture it.

Rollers are so named for their breathtaking aerial acrobatics, especially during the breeding season, when they perform a series of swift, rolling maneuvers. These displays serve not only to attract mates but also to establish and defend territories. They ascend rapidly, then dive, rolling and looping with a grace that is as functional as it is spectacular, before resuming another powerful, long flight.

These birds are predominantly monogamous, forming pairs that work cooperatively in raising their young. Both parents participate actively in nest building, incubation, and feeding of the chicks, showcasing a strong parental investment that is characteristic of the family.

The diet of rollers is diverse, mainly consisting of small invertebrates but also extending to insects, rodents, lizards, and frogs. Their predation on these creatures makes them important controllers of pest populations in their ecosystems.