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Coracias spatulatus (Racket-tailed roller) 

[= Coracias spatulata

Knopsterttroupant [Afrikaans]; Sikambu (generic term for roller) [Kwangali]; Gatawa (generic name for roller) [Shona]; Vlagstaartscharrelaar [Dutch]; Rollier raquettes [French]; Spatelracke [German]; Rolieiro-cauda-de-raquete [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 spatulatus (Racket-tailed roller)  

Racket-tailed roller, Kruger National Park, South Africa. [photo Trevor Hardaker ]


The Racket-tailed roller is endemic to Africa, occupying an area from Tanzania to Angola, south to Zimbabwe Botswana and Mozambique. It prefers mature undisturbed deciduous woodland, especially Miombo, Mopane and Zambezi Teak woodland. Its diet is little known, but it is thought to feed mainly on insects, hunting from low perches, swooping to catch prey once spotted. It is probably a cooperative breeder, nesting in tree cavities about 6-7 m above ground, either natural or excavated by large woodpeckers. There is little more information about its breeding habits, as there have been no large studies done on this species.

Distribution and habitat

Occurs from Tanzania, southern DRC, Angola and Zambia to southern Africa. Within southern Africa it is uncommon to fairly common in the Caprivi Strip (Namibia), northern Botswana, Zimbabwe, Mozambique and Limpopo Province. It generally prefers mature, undisturbed deciduous woodland, especially miombo (Brachystegia), Mopane (Colosphermum mopane) and Zambezi teak (Baikiaea plurijuga) woodland.

Distribution of Racket-tailed 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.  


Its diet is little known, but it is thought to feed mainly on insects. It typically hunts from a low perch, pouncing on any prey items it spots. The following food items have been recorded in its diet:


  • Probably a cooperative breeder, as breeding pairs are sometimes observed with non-breeding adults, who are likely to be helpers
  • Nests in tree cavities about 6-7 m above ground, either natural or excavated by large woodpeckers.
  • It lays 2-3 eggs in the period from about September-December; egg-laying typically peaks in October.
  • The incubation of the eggs and caring of the chicks has not been studied.


Status uncertain, but it is probably threatened by the destruction of deciduous woodlands.


  • 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.