The INDIAN ROLLER (
Coracias benghalensis), is a member of the roller
family of birds . They are found widely across tropical Asia from Iraq
eastward across the
Indian Subcontinent to
Indochina and are best
known for the aerobatic displays of the male during the breeding
season. They are very commonly seen perched along roadside trees and
wires and are commonly seen in open grassland and scrub forest
habitats. It is not migratory , but undertakes some seasonal
movements. The largest populations of the species are within India,
and several states in India have chosen it as their state bird.
* 1 Taxonomy and systematics
* 2 Description
* 3 Distribution and habitat
* 4 Ecology and behaviour
* 5 In culture
* 6 References
* 7 Other sources
* 8 External links
TAXONOMY AND SYSTEMATICS
Indian roller was originally described as belonging to the genus
Corvus . Alternate names for the
Indian roller include the INDIAN
BLUE ROLLER, NORTHERN ROLLER and SOUTHERN BLUE ROLLER.
Three subspecies are recognized:
* C. b. benghalensis - (Linnaeus , 1758 ): Found from eastern Arabia
to north-eastern India and Bangladesh
* SOUTHERN ROLLER (C. b. indicus) - Linnaeus, 1766: Originally
described as a separate species. Found in central and southern India,
* BURMESE ROLLER (C. b. affinis) - Horsfield , 1840: Originally
described as a separate species. Also called the INDOCHINESE ROLLER.
Found from north-eastern India to south-central China, northern Malay
Peninsula and Indochina
Indian roller in flight A large hook-tipped bill, seen
here in the nominate subspecies
Indian roller is a stocky bird about 26–27 cm long and can only
be confused within its range with the migratory
European roller . The
breast is brownish and not blue as in the European Roller. The crown
and vent are blue. The primaries are deep purplish blue with a band of
pale blue. The tail is sky blue with a terminal band of Prussian blue
and the central feathers are dull green. The neck and throat are
purplish lilac with white shaft streaks. The bare patch around the eye
is ochre in colour. The three forward toes are united at the base.
Rollers have a long and compressed bill with a curved upper edge and a
hooked tip. The nostril is long and exposed and there are long rictal
bristles at the base of the bill. The three forward pointing
toes appear to be joined at the base
Three subspecies are usually recognized. The nominate form is found
from western Asia (Iraq, Arabia) east across the Indian Subcontinent,
and within India north of the
Vindhyas mountain ranges. The subspecies
indicus is found in peninsular India and Sri Lanka. The southern form
has a darker reddish collar on the hind neck which is missing in the
nominate form. The race affinis of northeastern India and Southeast
Asia (Thailand, Myanmar, Indochina) is sometimes considered a full
species, but within the Indian region, it is seen to intergrade with
benghalensis. The form affinis is darker, larger and has a purplish
brown and unstreaked face and breast. It has underwing coverts in a
deeper shade of blue.
DISTRIBUTION AND HABITAT
Indian roller is distributed across Asia, from Iraq and United
Arab Emirates in south-western Asia through the
Indian Subcontinent ,
including Sri Lanka,
Lakshadweep islands and
Maldive Islands into
Southeast Asia. Its main habitat includes cultivated areas, thin
forest and grassland.
ECOLOGY AND BEHAVIOUR
Subspecies affinis from Thailand
Indian rollers are often seen perched on prominent bare trees or
wires. They descend to the ground to capture their prey which may
include insects, arachnids , small reptiles, small snakes and
amphibians. Fires attract them and they will also follow tractors
for disturbed invertebrates. In agricultural habitats in southern
India, they have been found at densities of about 50 birds per km2.
They perch mainly on 3—10 metre high perches and feed mostly on
ground insects. Nearly 50% of their prey are beetles and 25% made up
by grasshoppers and crickets. The feeding behaviour of this roller
and habitat usage are very similar to that of the black drongo .
During summer, they may also feed late in the evening and make use of
artificial lights and feed on insects attracted to them. They are
attracted to swarms of winged termites, and as many as 40 birds have
been seen to perch on a 70-metre stretch of electric wires.
Their habit of feeding near roadsides sometimes results in collisions
with traffic . A decline in the numbers of these birds seen along
roadsides in northern India has been noted.
The display of this bird is an aerobatic display, with the twists and
turns that give this species its English name. The breeding season is
March to June, slightly earlier in southern India. Displays when
perched include bill-up displays, bowing, allopreening, wing drooping
and tail fanning. Holes created by woodpeckers or wood boring insects
in palms are favoured for nesting in some areas. Nest cavities may
also be made by tearing open rotten tree trunks or in cavities in
building. The cavity is usually unlined and is made up mainly of
debris from the wood. The normal clutch consists of about 3-5 eggs.
The eggs are white and broad oval or nearly spherical. Both sexes
incubate the eggs for about 17 to 19 days. The young fledge and leave
the nest after about a month. Nearly 80% of the eggs hatch and fledge.
The call of the
Indian roller is a harsh crow-like chack sound. It
also makes a variety of other sounds, including metallic boink calls.
It is especially vociferous during the breeding season.
The bird bathes in open water by plunge-diving into it, a behaviour
often interpreted as fishing. But it may occasionally attempt
fishing from water.
Blood parasites Leucocytozoon of the family
Plasmodiidae have been
noted in the lung tissues. Parasitic helminth worms Hadjelia truncata
and Synhimantus spiralis were recorded as well.
Indian roller is very common in the populated plains of India and
Hindu legends. It is said to be sacred to
Vishnu , and
used to be caught and released during festivals such as
Dussera or the
last day of
Durga Puja . A local
Hindi name is neelkanth, meaning
"blue throat", a name associated with the deity
Shiva (who drank
poison resulting in the blue throat).
Another local name in Telugu is 'pala pitta', and in
Kannada it is
'neelakanthi'. Adding its chopped feathers to grass and feeding them
to cows was believed to increase their milk yield. The Indian roller
has been chosen as the state bird by the Indian states of Andhra
BirdLife International (2016). "
Coracias benghalensis". IUCN
Red List of Threatened Species. Version 2016.3. International Union
for Conservation of Nature . Retrieved 2 March 2017.
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5. The Indian
Roller or Blue Jay (