Saturday, March 13, 2010

Indian Roller

The Indian Roller is a stocky bird measuring around 26-27cm in length and can only be confused within its range with the migratory European Roller. It is found in open grassland and forest areas ranging from Iraq to Thailand. More images and info after the jump.

These birds are usually seen perched on telephone wires or bare trees and descend to the ground to catch prey. They usually feed on insects, small reptiles and amphibians. The Indian Roller is not known to be shy of man and can even be found on cricket pitches in Colombo. They have been known to follow tractors in order to capture disturbed invertebrates. 

Because of its brown breast and dark blue wings it can look "quite dull" when it is perched. However, when it takes flight, the primaries and secondaries show vividly banded light and dark blue. In Sri Lanka, it is found throughout the lowlands and up to the mid hills but it is a lot commoner in the dry zone. Records show that the Indian Roller has been found at a density of 50 birds per square km in agricultural areas in southern India.

During the mating season, the male is known to perform aerobatic displays with lots of twists and turns. It is this behaviour that has led to its English name. The breeding season is from March until June and they nest in a lined hole in a tree or a building laying about 3 - 5 eggs. 

Since the  Indian Roller is very common in India, it features in several legends. Its local name is neelakant (which means blue throat), a name associated with the deity Shiva (who drank poison which resulted in a blue throat). In the past, captive Indian Rollers were released by local rulers during festivals. The Indian Roller has been chosen as the state bird of a number of Indian states.

While I was in Sri Lanka and traveling in the dry zone to Anuradhapura and Trincomalee, I saw this bird very very regularly. Every 2km stretch of the Habarana - Trincomalee road saw an Indian Roller perched on a telephone line. 

These images were captured with a Canon 7D and a 100-400mm lens.   

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