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A photo of a Racket-tailed Roller (Coracias spatulatus)
Racket-tailed Roller

Racket-tailed Roller

Coracias spatulatus

The Racket-tailed roller, Coracias spatulatus, is a striking avian species, notable for its elongated outer tail feathers that end in paddle-shaped tips, giving the bird its name. Measuring 28 to 30 cm in length, with tail streamers adding an extra 8 cm, this bird presents a white forehead and superciliary streak, a dull green crown, a rufous back, and a blue tail. Its underparts are pale blue with whitish streaking. When in flight, the purple upper wing with an azure-blue stripe is visible, contrasting with the pale blue under wing that has a purplish-black trailing edge and tip.

Identification Tips

To identify the Racket-tailed roller, look for its distinctive tail streamers, which are absent in similar species. The bird's beak is black, the eye is brownish, and the legs are a dull yellowish color. Juveniles resemble adults but are less vivid and lack the elongated tail feathers.

Habitat

This species is typically found in the mid-storey region of woodlands, where it perches and hunts for prey.

Distribution

The Racket-tailed roller inhabits southern Africa, with its range extending from Angola, southeastern Democratic Republic of Congo, and southern Tanzania to northern Botswana, Zimbabwe, Malawi, and Mozambique.

Behaviour

The Racket-tailed roller is a solitary bird or is seen in pairs, occasionally forming small groups. It is territorial, known to drive away intruders with a raucous screech and acrobatic flight. It hunts from a perch, swooping down to capture prey on the forest floor.

Song & Calls

The vocalization of this species is a harsh guttural shriek, particularly emitted during its swooping flight.

Breeding

Breeding occurs in tree trunk or branch cavities, often repurposing old nests of woodpeckers or barbets. The clutch typically consists of three or four eggs, but detailed nesting habits remain largely unexplored.

Similar Species

The European roller (Coracias garrulus) and the lilac-breasted roller (Coracias caudatus) are similar in appearance but lack the Racket-tailed roller's distinctive tail streamers.

Diet and Feeding

The diet of the Racket-tailed roller mainly includes grasshoppers, beetles, insect larvae, scorpions, and small lizards, which it captures from its perch after spotting them on the ground.

Conservation Status

The Racket-tailed roller is classified as "Least Concern" by the IUCN. Although its population trend is thought to be declining due to habitat loss, particularly in miombo and mopane woodlands, there are no significant threats identified that would warrant a higher concern at this time.

Racket-tailed Roller Sounds

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Recorded by: © 
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