110 W. New York Ave.
DeLand, FL 32720
By Lynn Bowen
posted Dec 30, 2013 - 3:47:19pm
The azure-blue chest of the 16-inch-long racket-tailed roller sitting quietly on a bare branch is what grabbed my attention at the Jacksonville Zoo and Gardens aviary in September.
Looking quite proud, he was very alert, and noticed me and didn’t mind my camera pointed at him. Perhaps he knew he was more handsome than some of the other birds! Some were only shades of gray, brown and tan, yet attractive. Some of the birds there didn’t notice, or else didn’t care, that I was walking among them.
There were many birds to admire, but for me, the roller took first prize. As I gazed in awe at this gorgeous roller, I saw how he earned the first part of his name. He has two long black tail feathers with a tiny tennis-racket shape at the bottom tip of each plume. The end of his name comes from being acrobatic and rolling in midair during courtship time! That would impress any female!
His back was pale reddish-brown, and his wings had dark blue edges. Beneath his pale brown crown was the white-feathered forehead, and a tiny blue stripe was beside his black eyes. His yellow legs and feet were short. Since males and females look alike, I don’t know which this one was.
Racket-tailed rollers are from central and eastern Africa, and live in open woodlands. Most likely these charmers want to protect that long tail and therefore would never live in forests. Nature gave them this common-sense instinct. They are loners or stay with a mate unless migrating; then they travel in small flocks of six or seven.
A racket-tailed roller perches on a vantage point for a clear and broad view of insects, which is his diet. He scans the ground, and, when the opportunity comes, swoops down and catches his food with his black bill.
The female usually lays three eggs twice a year in a tree cavity if the food supply is ample.
Racket-tailed rollers vocalize with loud harsh squawks, which I didn’t hear at the Jacksonville Zoo. One would imagine they would sound as nice as they look, but it isn’t so.
These beauties can live for 20 years.
— Bowen lives in DeLand. Send email to her at email@example.com
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