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Coracias naevius (Purple roller) 

[= Coracias naevia

Groottroupant [Afrikaans]; Sikambu (generic term for roller) [Kwangali]; Gatawa (generic name for roller) [Shona]; Vhevhe (generic term for roller) [Tsonga]; LetlÍrÍtlÍrÍ, LetlhakÍla [Tswana]; Roodkruinscharrelaar [Dutch]; Rollier variť [French]; Strichelracke [German]; Rolieiro-de-sobrancelhas-brancas [Portuguese]

Life > Eukaryotes > Opisthokonta > Metazoa (animals) > Bilateria > Deuterostomia > Chordata > Craniata > Vertebrata (vertebrates)  > Gnathostomata (jawed vertebrates) > Teleostomi (teleost fish) > Osteichthyes (bony fish) > Class: Sarcopterygii (lobe-finned fish) > Stegocephalia (terrestrial vertebrates) > Tetrapoda (four-legged vertebrates) > Reptiliomorpha > Amniota > Reptilia (reptiles) > Romeriida > Diapsida > Archosauromorpha > Archosauria > Dinosauria (dinosaurs) > Saurischia > Theropoda (bipedal predatory dinosaurs) > Coelurosauria > Maniraptora > Aves (birds) > Order: Coraciiformes > Family: Coraciidae

Coracias naevius (Purple roller)  Coracias naevius (Purple roller) 

Purple roller. [photo Jeff Poklen ©]

Purple roller. [photo Callie de Wet ©]

The Purple roller is endemic to Africa, being found from Senegal and Gambia to Somalia, extending south to southern Africa. It is widespread but uncommon, living in dry woodland and savanna. It feeds not only on insects but also scorpions, small reptiles, mice and even young birds. Courtship is elaborate, with courtship feeding and acrobatic flight displays commonly recorded. It lays 3-5 eggs, usually a cavity in a (frequently dead) tree,  at least 5 m above ground. It also uses rock crevices and vertical pipes.

Distribution and habitat

Occurs across sub-Saharan Africa; in southern Africa it is widespread but uncommon in northern and central Namibia, Botswana, Zimbabwe, southern Mozambique and north-eastern South Africa. It generally prefers dry woodland and savanna, especially with bushwillows (Combretum), Mopane (Colophospermum mopane), Apple-leaf (Philenoptera), Burkea (Burkea africana),  Zambezi teak (Baikiaea plurijuga) and miombo (Brachystegia).

Distribution of Purple roller in southern Africa, based on statistical smoothing of the records from first SA Bird Atlas Project (© Animal Demography unit, University of Cape Town; smoothing by Birgit Erni and Francesca Little). Colours range from dark blue (most common) through to yellow (least common). See here for the latest distribution from the SABAP2.  



Recorded by Clem Hagner, [© Transvaal Museum]



Mainly eats insects, supplemented with other small animals, doing most of its hunting by sitting and scanning the vegetation. If it spots prey it dives to the ground and pounces. The following food items have been recorded in its diet:

  • Invertebrates
  • Vertebrates
    • small reptiles
    • mice
    • young birds


  • Monogamous, territorial solitary nester. Courtship is elaborate, with pairs feeding one another and performing spectacular aerial displays.
  • The nest is usually a cavity in a tree, at least 5 m above ground; it may also use a rock crevice or vertical pipe.
Coracias naevius (Purple roller)  

Purple roller at its nest with a chick, Sericea farm, South Africa. [photo Warwick Tarboton ©]

  • It lays 2-4 eggs in the period from May-June, peaking from October-April.


Not threatened, in fact common in many areas of southern Africa.


  • Hockey PAR, Dean WRJ and Ryan PG (eds) 2005. Roberts - Birds of southern Africa, VIIth ed. The Trustees of the John Voelcker Bird Book Fund, Cape Town.