Rollers
Return to Index page Indian Roller Dollarbird

From the family of Coraciidae

The Indian Rollers together with the Dollarbirds belong to small family of birds under this heading. Worldwide there are 12 species of these birds. Medium size with a large head coupled with a stout bill. They both are strong flier capable of performing acrobatic stunts like rolling and tumbling. Their favorite food is flying insects which they would capture in mid-air and doing sorties from an exposed position that they have chosen.

The 2 birds are allocated these scientific names.
Indian Roller Coracias benghalensis  
Dollarbirds Eurystomus orientalis

Worldwide there 12 species there are 12 species from this family and among which 2 can be found in South-east Asia. In Malaysia both can be seen. Among the 2 birds mentioned, only the Dollarbirds is sighted consistently throughout the country.

Whereas the Indian Rollers could not be found. Only sporadic reports of sightings during the northern winter period. Then these reports were telling of the bird seen in isolation, there were no reports of parallel sighting of the similar birds elsewhere at the same time.

 

 
Indian Roller Coracias benghalensis affinis
 
 

 Size & diagnostic markings:- The Roller is also 33 cm long with identical shape as the Dollarbirds. Contrary to the Dollarbirds, this bird has more or less same tone but this time has the colors that are brilliant. The purplish-blue and light turquoise stand out . But when perched at a distance, the reflection makes the bird appear drab brown where the color should be brilliant. The breast itself is the only part of the bird that is naturally brown

 Distribution :- This is a bird from places like Oman and Iraq and Iran. Then the Indian sub-continent and south China hardly seen in Malaysia. Strays in the northern states during winters
 Habitats & preferences:- This is a lowland bird of the dessert and prefers wide open country
 In Malaysia, where can the bird be found:- Early reports of sightings in East Coast but now never heard for a while but recently in Penang and Taiping.

 

Record of Indian Roller's calls :-    and Videos

 

In ancient times, this Indian Roller was named as the Blue Jay. Both the male and female look alike. Like the Dollardbirds I find that the Roller too have that distinctive purplish lilac with white shaft streaks on the neck and throat.

Indian Rollers are commonly perched at height of 3-10 meters, along roadside trees and wires more often facing an open grasslands. But at times much less could also be on scrub forest type of habitats.

They are feeding on ground insects, where they could see from the low height and dive up for their prey swiftly before returning to their original perch. For this reason some insects would be out under artificial lights in the evening and not uncommon to see the Roller staying up late and still feeding in the failing lights.

Some of the food the Roller like, Frog is on top of the list of food. Voluminous but not so often encountered. Next would be the more attainable supply of Beetles and Crickets, Grasshoppers and butterflies. It is not surprising then when swarms of winged termites are in the air, the Roller is present.

The Roller when perched could be engaged in movements like bill-up display, wings drooping and tail-fanning like one of the my pictures shows. Then in the acrobatic display done during the breeding season and where the bird got its name, the Indian Roller shoot high up into the sky and descends downwards in a circular motion. In the midst of it, the bird would be flapping its wings rapidly complimented with that harsh "chack" sounds.

I have checked on the internet to confirm that the Indian Roller is not classified  under the list of migratory birds. Then this bird that I photographed over these few years must be the odd bird acting out of the norm.

 

Indian Roller # 1

Indian Roller  # 2

Indian Roller  # 3

Indian Roller # 4

Indian Roller  # 5

Indian Roller  # 6

Indian Roller  # 7

Indian Roller  # 8

Indian Roller  # 9

Indian Roller  # 10

Indian Roller  # 11

Indian Roller  # 12

 

 My personal jottings on the Indian Roller :-

Special notes about the birds, my personal liking for this bird, my observations and special points regarding the birds

 

This page appears as a record that the Indian Roller was sighted in Peninsula Malaysia. It is a bird that cannot be sighted unless and until the bird decide to spend time here .In the last 3 seasons 2009-2011, the bird had returned to the same place in the wasteland of Kemunting Industrial Estate. Earlier it was sighted elsewhere near Taiping and Penang.

I hope that trend will continue and perhaps a pattern would be established leading to more of its kind altering its migration pattern. Then we will have a definite chance of sighting the bird each year for sure.