Family Rollers (Coraciidae)

Least Concern

Lilac-breasted Roller (Coracias caudatus)


French: Rollier à longs brins German: Gabelracke Spanish: Carraca lila

Coracias caudata


, 1766,



Often regarded as forming a species-group with C. abyssinicus and C. garrulus, though probably more closely allied to former. Race lorti distinctive, on account of breast to mid-belly turquoise or turquoise-green vs white-striped lilac (as a continuation of the throat) with pale rufous-brown tinges on belly (3), and (at least with regard to adjacent populations of nominate caudatus) reduced area of royal blue on carpal and on rump, leaving wing-coverts and lower rump turquoise (2). Seemingly parapatric distribution along R Tana and at Malinde#R (which would score 3) is not, however, accurate, since the one breeding record of lorti in the region, at Garsen, is well out of range of nominate and not indicative of parapatry; thus, evidence of behavioural or ecological differences required to establish lorti as separate species. Specific name frequently given as feminine, caudata, but genus is masculine. Two subspecies recognized.

Subspecies and Distribution
  • C. c. lorti Shelley, 1885 – Lilac-throated Roller – Ethiopia and Somalia S to NE Kenya.
  • C. c. caudatus Linnaeus, 1766 – Lilac-breasted Roller – Angola E to Uganda and C & E Kenya, S to Namibia and N & E South Africa.
  • Descriptive notes

    28–30 cm (with streamers up to 8 cm more); 87–135 g. A lightweight roller, with streamered tail. Nominate race with whitish forehead and supercilia, glossy olive-... read more


    Like other rollers, gives a loud, guttural "rak, rak" or variants thereof, which is... read more


    Acacia woodland with well-spaced trees, pure grassland (where it uses any elevated perch,... read more

    Food and feeding

    Arthropods and small vertebrates: locusts, grasshoppers (including the noxious Phymateus viridipes), crickets, beetles,... read more


    Lays Apr–Jun (once Sept in S) in Somalia, Mar and Aug–Sept in Ethiopia, Mar–Nov in E Africa, Sept–Nov in Malawi,... read more


    Nominate race is resident, with some dispersal in Zanzibar (e.g. to Pemba I), Zambia and Zimbabwe,... read more

    Status and conservation

    Not globally threatened. Abundant in Somalia; common in E Africa and Malawi and in parts of Ethiopia and Zambia; frequent in Zimbabwe except E; frequent in Transvaal S to... read more

    Recommended citation

    Fry, H. & Kirwan, G.M. (2019). Lilac-breasted Roller (Coracias caudatus). In: del Hoyo, J., Elliott, A., Sargatal, J., Christie, D.A. & de Juana, E. (eds.). Handbook of the Birds of the World Alive. Lynx Edicions, Barcelona. (retrieved from on 19 April 2019).