Purple Roller

© Roger de la Harpe
Purple Roller.


Purple roller or Rufous-crowned roller (Coracias naevius)


The purple roller is a large stocky roller with a length of 35–40 cm and a weight of 160 g. The sexes look alike. From a distance or in poor light it appears a plain dark brown. It has a broad pale supercilium (eyebrow) and white spot on the crown. The upperparts are mainly dark olive-green and the rump is a blue-purple. The closed wings look dark rufous and the tail is square. The sides of the head and underparts are a pale purple-brown and heavily streaked white. The lower flanks, belly and undertail coverts are not streaked. In flight they are marginally brighter. The flight feathers are blue-black. The upper wing coverts are pale pink. The median and lesser coverts are bright lilac to dark purple. The purple roller is rather long-winged and the underwing is pale pink. The bill is black and the legs and feet are olive-brown.

Purple Roller Diet

The purple roller feeds on insects, mainly locusts, grasshoppers and mantises. They also eat beetles, ants, scorpions, small reptiles, mice and occasionally young birds.

Purple Roller Breeding

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

Purple Roller Behaviour

The purple roller is territorial and aggressive and chase off other rollers, crows and small hawks. They are mostly found singly or in pairs. Partners may be perched hundreds of meters apart. They perch mostly on dead branches, either inside the tree canopy or more conspicuously at the edge or on top. They are less vocal and less acrobatic than other rollers.


The purple roller prefers the interior of open woodland or bushveld and hot low-laying ground. They generally need large trees for breeding.

Where they are found

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