Purple Roller

© Graham Cooke


Purple Roller have a lenght of 35-40cm, and weigh 160g. The sexes look alike. It is a large, stocky and dull roller. From a distance or in poor light it appears, a plain dark brown with broad pale supercillium and white spot on the hindcrown. The upperparts are mainly dark olive-green, the rump is blue-purple.

Conspicuous white supercillium and small pale patch on the hindcrown. Closed wings look dark rufous; the tail is square, dark greenish centrally and the rest is purple-blue. The sides of the head and underparts are a pale purple-brown, heavily streaked white; the lower flanks, belly and undertailcoverts are unstreaked. In flight they are marginally brighter.

Purple Roller's flight feathers are blue-black. Marginal upper wingcoverts are pale pink, median and lesser coverts are bright lilac to dark purple, the greater coverts vinaceous are brown, primary coverts and alula are purple. The underwing is pale pink. Rather long-winged. The bill is black, legs and feet are olive-brown in colour.


Purple Rollers feed on insects, mainly locusts, grasshoppers and mantises, also beetles, ants, scorpions, small reptiles, mice and occasionally young birds.


They are territorial, monogamous breeders, nesting solitarily. Nesting occurs between October and June. The same nest is occupied several years in succession, and the birds inspects the nest hole also in the non-breeding season. The eggs are rounded, pure white and slightly glossy.


Territorial and pugnacious, Purple Rollers chase and drive off other rollers, crows and small hawks. Mostly found singly or in pairs; partners may be perched hundreds of meters apart. Perches mostly on dead branches, either inside tree canopy or more conspicuously at periphery or on top. They are less vocal and less acrobatic than other rollers.


Purple Roller prefer the interior of open woodland or bushveld. They generally need large trees for breeding. They prefer hot low laying ground.

Where Purple Roller Are Found

The purple roller is endemic to Africa. They are widespread in South Africa, but generally sparse in all well-wooded dry habitats. 

Common names

Purple Roller, Rufous-crowned Roller.

Latin name

Coracias naevia.
Kruger National Park - South African Safari