Indian roller (Coracias benghalensis)

French: Rollier indien
KingdomAnimalia
PhylumChordata
ClassAves
OrderCoraciiformes
FamilyCoraciidae
GenusCoracias (1)
SizeLength: 32 – 34 cm (2)
Wingspan: 65 – 74 cm (2)
Weight90 g (2)

Classified as Least Concern (LC) on the IUCN Red List (1).

The Indian roller gains its name from its elaborate courtship displays, during which it performs some startling aerobatics culminating in a series of ‘rolling’ motions. The Indian roller is a medium-sized bird which, when perched, appears a fairly drab brown, with a blue crown and lower wing. In flight, however, it is extremely striking, with its deep purple-black wings, bright blue rump, and a blue band across the tail becoming visible (2). Its eyes are greyish-brown and the strong, hook-tipped bill is blackish-brown (3) (4).

The Indian roller is, as its name suggests, found in India; however, it is also found across much of southern Asia, from China, Vietnam and Malaysia, west to Iraq and Saudi Arabia (2).

The Indian roller generally inhabits lowland regions below 1,200 metres, and prefers open cultivated areas or light deciduous forest (2). It is also sometimes found in urban areas such as parks and cities, where it utilises overhead cables as a vantage point (5).

This bird feeds primarily on insects, in particular beetles, crickets, and grasshoppers. It also regularly consumes flying insects such as wasps, flies, moths and butterflies (6). Where available, amphibians also form a large part of its diet, although in drier areas this food source is often not available (5). When hunting, the Indian roller typically sits motionless at a high vantage point, from which it can scan the ground for potential prey items. When prey is spotted, it will drop down to snatch it and then return immediately to its perch to consume it. On other occasions the Indian roller feeds directly from the ground, and moves around an area foraging for potential insect prey (6).

Breeding generally occurs in spring and early summer, and males begin to display as early as February. Courtship displays are highly elaborate, with males flying to great heights and tumbling back down whilst performing a range of aerobatics, calling harshly and beating their wings rapidly to flash their brilliantly coloured wings and tail (5). Eggs are usually laid in April in a hole in a tree or other structure, and are incubated for a period of up to 20 days, with young generally fledging after a period of 35 days. Although groups of Indian rollers are rarely seen, family groups may form, and communicate with a series of loud ‘chack’ calls, which become harsher and more regular during times of threat. When bathing, this species is often seen diving in to water from a great height, a behaviour which was once interpreted as fishing (5).

As the Indian roller is a fairly widespread bird across Asia and is not known to have any global threats, it is not currently considered to be at risk of extinction (1). 

The Indian roller is found in a number of protected areas across its range, including Ba Be National Park and Na Hang Nature Reserve in Vietnam (7), and Rema-Kalenga Wildlife Sanctuary in Bangladesh (8). In addition, it is the state bird of the Indian states of Andhra Pradesh, Bihar, Karnataka and Orissa (9) (10), and is also considered sacred by Hindus (4). Both of these facts should mean a high level of awareness of this species amongst the general public in certain areas, something which will be of great benefit if this species requires conservation action in the future.  

To find out about bird conservation in India see:

For more information on this and other bird species please see:

This information is awaiting authentication by a species expert, and will be updated as soon as possible. If you are able to help please contact:
arkive@wildscreen.org.uk

  1. IUCN Red List (March, 2010)
    http://www.iucnredlist.org
  2. Wallace, D.I.M. (1978) Birds of the Western Palearctic, Volume 1. Oxford University Press, Oxford.
  3. Burton, R. (2002) International Wildlife Encyclopedia. Marshall Cavendish Corporation, New York.
  4. Whistler, H. (1941) Popular Handbook of Indian Birds. Gurney and Jackson, London.
  5. Honolulu Zoo (November, 2009)
    http://www.honoluluzoo.org/indian_roller.htm
  6. Sivakumaran, N. and Thiyagesan, K. (2003) Population, diurnal activity patterns and feeding ecology of the Indian roller Coracius benghalensis. Zoos’ Print Journal, 18(5): 1091-1095.
  7. Hill, M. (2000) Bird fauna of protected forests in northern Vietnam. Forktail, 16: 5-14.
  8. Ministry of Environment and Forests. (2003) Secondary data collection for pilot protected areas: Rema-Kalenga Wildlife Sanctuary. Ministry of Environment and Forests, Government of Banglasdesh.
  9. The Internet Bird Collection (November, 2009)
    http://ibc.lynxeds.com
  10. Mohanty, P.K. (2005) Blue Jay: The State Bird of Orissa. Orissa Review, 2005: 86-88.