Roller, Blue-bellied



Coracias cyanogaster 


Small birds with relatively large heads; heavy, downward-curved beaks and short legs to fit their stocky bodies; cream-colored heads and chests, with pale-blue bellies and dark blue or dark green wings; brownish-black mantle and scapulars with streaks of green; azure-blue tails, which are slightly forked. They have an average wingspan of 14.13” (359 mm); weight ranges from 3.87 to 5.28 oz (110 g to 150 g); length: 11 – 11.8” (280 to 300 mm). Juveniles are typically smaller than adults, with duller coloration and a shorter tail.

Family

Coraciidae

Order

Coraciiformes

Class

Aves

Range

Senegal and Sierra Leone to Central African Republic; also extreme N Zaire and S Sudan

Habitat

Wooded savanna, tree plantations, forest edges, recently burned land, and forests near marshes; savanna areas are often forest edges, and are rarely more than several tens of meters above sea level.

Life Expectancy

Unknown, but researchers have concluded that some birds may live to be 20 years of age.

Sexual Maturity

Unknown

Diet

In the wild they eat beetles, grasshoppers, winged ants and termites, occasionally small vertebrates like colubrid snakes and oil-palm fruits; in the Zoo they are fed a scientifically developed, commercially available pelleted and meat diet with assorted insects.

Status

IUCN – Least Concern

Behaviors

Blue-bellied rollers are a social species, usually living in groups of three to seven birds, although groups of up to twenty birds have been recorded. Some blue-bellied rollers migrate during the wet season (in winter). Blue-bellied rollers are known for their tendencies to sit in trees at about ten meters off the ground and dive to the forest floor for insects. Blue-bellied rollers flock to forest and savanna fires, where they wait outside the fire and feed on insects fleeing the flames. The mean density of blue-bellied rollers in savanna habitats is 414 adults per 19.5 square kilometers. Pairs and small groups of blue-bellied rollers often defend territories as large as 10,000 square meters. Social interaction and communication among blue-bellied rollers consists of calling, flying together, and chasing. These activities are used to show territoriality, maintain group unity, and initiate courtship. The call of Blue-bellied Roller is a harsh clicking ga-ga-ga sound. Blue-bellied rollers undergo courtship when specific rollers call loudly and raucously to attract their mates. Blue-bellied rollers, along with other Coracias, got their name from their unique courtship behaviors, in which they roll back and forth in the sky, tumbling to the ground, while calling loudly and raucously. Males and females engage in a fast chasing flight. One male copulates with one or two females. Blue-bellied rollers are sometimes monogamous and sometimes promiscuous. Male blue-bellied rollers have been known to copulate with two different females in intervals of only ten minutes; up to three males may copulate with the same female. They breed in the spring and summer months, from April to July. They generally lay two or three eggs per season. Both parents incubate the eggs for about 18 to 20 days. Both parents feed the nestlings for about 30 days after hatching and for up to twenty days after fledging. Blue-bellied rollers typically become independent after about forty days. There is no information available regarding the age of sexual maturity.

Adaptions

Blue-bellied rollers are not heavily preyed on. In open savanna environments, blue-bellied rollers are typically large, powerful, and agile enough to escape most predators, such as carnivorous mammals and rodents, snakes, and hawks. Eggs, nestlings, and fledglings are most vulnerable.

Special Interests

Blue-bellied rollers act as predators towards large insect populations in central and western Africa. Because of their territorial habits they may benefit the trees they inhabit for shelter by warding off other animals that attempt to feed on the leaves.

Folklore

Conservation

This species has an extremely large range, the population trend appears to be decreasing, and the population size has not been quantified. For these reasons the species is evaluated as Least Concern.

Jacksonville Zoo History

Blue-bellied rollers arrived in the Jacksonville Zoo collection in 2007.

Exhibit

Emerald Forest Aviary