Bird O'clock

The Vibrant World of Broad-billed Rollers: Stunning Plumage Elaborate Courtship Displays and Fascinating Behaviors

Birdwatching is a popular hobby that many people enjoy, and one of the most fascinating things about it is the variety of bird species to observe. One bird that enthusiasts might be curious about is the Broad-billed Roller, or Eurystomus glaucurus.

This species is known for its striking colors and elaborate courtship displays, making it a favorite among birdwatchers. In this article, we will delve deeper into the identification, plumage, and molts of the Broad-billed Roller to provide you with a comprehensive understanding of this stunning bird.


The Broad-billed Roller is an unmistakable bird with a striking appearance. It has bright blue-green feathers on its back and wings, a vivid blue head, and a broad red bill.

Its underparts are light gray, and the tail is blue with black bars. It measures around 30 centimeters in length and has a wingspan of approximately 45 centimeters.



The Broad-billed Roller inhabits a variety of environments, including savanna, woodland, and forest edges. It is often seen perched on high branches or wires, from where it swoops down to catch insects or small reptiles.

When in flight, you can observe the species’ bright blue wings, its black-tipped tail, and its characteristic hovering behavior.

Similar Species

Another bird species that is often confused with the Broad-billed Roller is the Lilac-breasted Roller. The Lilac-breasted Roller also has blue-green wings and a striking plumage, but it has lilac-colored breast feathers instead of light gray.

Additionally, its bill is shorter and more curved than the Broad-billed Roller’s.


The Broad-billed Roller’s vibrant plumage is an essential feature of the bird’s courtship displays. During mating season, males will perform elaborate flight displays to attract females, flashing their colorful feathers and even performing twists and turns mid-flight.


The Broad-billed Roller has several molts throughout its life cycle. Molting is the process of shedding and growing new feathers, which is necessary for the bird’s survival and comfort.

The plumage of the birds is most vibrant during the breeding season when the brightly-colored feathers are displayed more frequently. In summary, the Broad-billed Roller is a unique and beautiful bird that is easily recognizable by its striking appearance and courtship displays.

While the Lilac-breasted Roller is often confused with this species, there are some key differences to look out for when identifying it in the field. Finally, its molting process is essential to the bird’s survival and wellbeing, culminating in the vivid plumage during the breeding season.

Bird enthusiasts can observe and appreciate the beauty of this remarkable species while enjoying the great outdoors. of scientific knowledge.

Systematics History

The Broad-billed Roller, or Eurystomus glaucurus, is a bird species in the roller family, Coraciidae. The scientific name “Eurystomus” refers to the bird’s broad bill,while “glaucurus” identifies its blue-green coloration.

Geographic Variation

The Broad-billed Roller inhabits a wide range of habitats throughout sub-Saharan Africa, including savannas, woodlands, and forest edges. The species is also known to occur on Madagascar and in the Comoros Islands.

This variety in habitats has led to some geographic variation in the bird’s physical characteristics, such as its size and coloration.


There are two recognized subspecies of the Broad-billed Roller:

Eurystomus glaucurus glaucurus: This subspecies is found across much of sub-Saharan Africa,from Senegal and Mauritania to Ethiopia and Tanzania.

Eurystomus glaucurus orientalis: This subspecies is found in Madagascar and the Comoros Islands and is smaller and darker in color than the mainland subspecies.

While both subspecies have similar physical characteristics overall, there are some differences in their plumage and vocalizations. The subspecies on Madagascar and the Comoros Islands is particularly distinct, with its darker blue-green coloration and different vocalizations.

Related Species

The Broad-billed Roller is a member of the broad-billed roller genus, Eurystomus, which includes two other species: the Indian Roller (Eurystomus orientalis) and the Javan Roller (Eurystomus javanicus). All three species share similar physical characteristics, including a broad beak, striking plumage, and a hovering flight style.

Historical Changes to Distribution

Historically, the Broad-billed Roller’s range has been subject to various shifts and changes. Climate change, habitat loss, and human activity have all contributed to the bird’s shifting distribution over time.

During the Pleistocene era, the ice ages caused the African savannas to expand and contract, leading to shifts in bird populations. As the ice sheets receded, the savanna habitats became more widespread, and the Broad-billed Roller’s range expanded as well.

In recent times, habitat loss and fragmentation have played a significant role in the bird’s distribution. The clearing of forests and woodlands for agriculture and logging has reduced the availability of suitable habitat for the species, and it is now extinct in some parts of its historic range.

Additionally, human activities such as hunting and persecution of predators that prey on the species have also contributed to its decline in certain areas. However, the Broad-billed Roller is still a relatively common species and is not currently considered to be in danger of extinction.

Conservation efforts such as protecting habitat and monitoring population trends will be important in ensuring the continued survival of the species.

In conclusion, the Broad-billed Roller’s range has been subject to various shifts and historical changes due to climate change, habitat loss, and human activity.

Despite these challenges, the species remains relatively common throughout much of sub-Saharan Africa and is not currently in danger of extinction. The bird’s geographic variation and subspecies offer valuable insight into the evolutionary history and genetic diversity of this iconic species, making it a fascinating subject for researchers and bird enthusiasts alike.

of scientific knowledge.


The Broad-billed Roller is a bird species that can be found in a variety of habitats throughout sub-Saharan Africa and Madagascar. This species inhabits savannas, woodlands, and forest edges, typically favoring open habitats that provide ample perching opportunities.The species is also known to nest in tree hollows or abandoned nests of other species.

Broad-billed Rollers are partial to roosting on tall perches and may prefer wooded areas that provide tall trees, telephone or electrical poles, and other vertical structures for perching. Although the species favors open habitats, Broad-billed Rollers have been known to inhabit secondary growth forests and forest fragments.

Movements and Migration

The Broad-billed Roller is considered a non-migratory species, with most populations residing year-round in their respective geographic ranges. There is little information on the bird’s seasonal movements or migration, though some studies suggest that certain populations may make local or short-distance movements throughout the year.

During breeding season, the male Broad-billed Roller may engage in aerial courtship displays,to attract a mate. These displays include high-speed diving and upward flying, where the male rolls and twists mid-flight while vocalizing.

Females are also known to perform aerial courtship displays in response to male displays. After breeding, the birds may disperse throughout their ranges in search of food, water, and suitable habitats for roosting and perching.

While individuals may disperse from their breeding sites, the species is not considered migratory. Despite their lack of seasonal migration, the Broad-billed Roller is known to undertake small-scale movements, such as those that may occur in response to rainfall patterns, food availability, or changes in habitat.

These movements may occur within a bird’s home range or between adjacent ranges, and may be influenced by factors like habitat structure, predator pressures, and resource availability. In conclusion, the Broad-billed Roller is a non-migratory species that typically resides year-round in its geographic range.

While individuals may undertake small-scale movements within their range in response to environmental changes, the species is not considered migratory. These birds are commonly found in open savanna habitats with tall perching opportunities, but have also been found in secondary forests and on forest edges.

The species’ aerial courtship displays and other behaviors offer fascinating insight into their complex social structure and survival mechanisms. of scientific knowledge.

Diet and Foraging


The Broad-billed Roller is a carnivorous bird species that feeds primarily on insects and small reptiles. The species frequently forages from a perch, scanning its surroundings for prey below.

Once an insect or reptile is sighted, the Broad-billed Roller will swoop down to catch the prey using its broad, hooked bill.


The Broad-billed Roller is known to feed on a diverse range of insect species, including beetles, grasshoppers, and dragonflies. The bird also preys upon small reptiles, such as lizards and geckos.

During breeding season, the birds may increase their consumption of certain insects that are especially high in protein, such as termites and grasshoppers. This increase in protein-rich insects is believed to support the birds energetic needs during courtship displays and other high-energy activities.

Metabolism and Temperature Regulation

Because the Broad-billed Roller is active during the day, it needs to maintain a high metabolism and generate sufficient body heat to support its energy needs. Despite this, the species is capable of regulating its body temperature through physiological adaptations.

For example, the species has a specialized respiratory system that allows it to exhale excess heat and conserve water while breathing. The bird also has a specialized vascular system that allows it to radiate heat from its feet, further regulating its body temperature.

Sounds and Vocal Behavior


The Broad-billed Roller is known for its distinct vocalizations, including a variety of calls that are used for communication and territorial display. Some of the most common calls of the species include a series of harsh, rasping notes and a nasal, drawn-out “chung.”

During courtship displays, males are known to vocalize frequently, often producing a series of complex, high-pitched notes that can be heard from a distance.

Females also engage in vocal behavior, with some producing soft, melodic calls during courtship displays. While many birds are known for their beautiful vocalizations, the Broad-billed Roller stands out for its unique, harsh calls that are unlike any other bird species.

These vocalizations are an important part of the bird’s social structure and are essential for communication and territorial display. of scientific knowledge.



The Broad-billed Roller is a skilled flier, able to glide with ease and hover in mid-air while scanning for prey. When in flight, the species’ broad wingspan and pointed tail make for impressive aerial displays.

The species is also known for its walking and hopping locomotion, which it uses to move on the ground.


The Broad-billed Roller frequently engages in self-grooming behaviors, using its bill and feet to preen and remove parasites and debris from its feathers. The species is also known to bathe in shallow pools of water, flapping its wings to shake off excess water and dry its feathers.

Agonistic Behavior

The Broad-billed Roller may display territorial and agonistic behavior toward other individuals to protect its nesting site, food sources, and mates. This behavior may include aggressive vocalizations and displays, such as wing-flapping and aerial combat.

Sexual Behavior

During breeding season, the male Broad-billed Roller displays elaborate courtship behaviors to attract a mate. These behaviors include aerial displays, where the male performs acrobatic maneuvers mid-flight, such as deep dives, twists, and turns.

The male will also vocalize frequently, producing complex, high-pitched notes to attract a female.


The breeding season for the Broad-billed Roller occurs from July to March. During this time, males engage in aerial displays to attract a mate.

Both males and females will work together to construct a nest, typically in a hole or cavity in a tree or termite mound. The female will lay a clutch of 2-4 eggs, which she will incubate for around 19-22 days.

Both parents share in the task of incubation and feeding the chicks once they hatch. The chicks fledge after around 22-27 days, and they will remain dependent on their parents for up to 21 days afterward.

Demography and Populations

The Broad-billed Roller is considered a relatively abundant species throughout much of sub-Saharan Africa, with populations estimated to be in the hundreds of thousands. However, certain populations may be declining due to habitat loss and other environmental pressures.

Despite its relatively stable population, the species is not immune to population declines.

Habitat destruction, hunting, and climate change are all potential threats to the species, and continued monitoring and conservation efforts will be necessary to ensure its continued survival.

In conclusion, the Broad-billed Roller displays a variety of behaviors related to locomotion and self-maintenance, territorial and agonistic behavior, and sexual behavior. During the breeding season, males engage in elaborated courtship behavior, while both parents share the tasks of incubation and chick-rearing.

The species is considered to be relatively abundant, but threats such as habitat loss and hunting may put certain populations at risk. Continued conservation efforts will be essential in maintaining healthy populations of this remarkable bird species.

In summary, the Broad-billed Roller is a fascinating bird with striking colors, unique behaviors, and an important ecological role as a predator of insects and small reptiles. The species can be found in a variety of habitats throughout sub-Saharan Africa and Madagascar, and displays a variety of behaviors related to locomotion, self-maintenance, agonistic and sexual behavior.

While the species is considered to be relatively abundant, threats such as habitat loss and hunting may put certain populations at risk, necessitating continued conservation efforts to maintain healthy populations of this remarkable species. The Broad-billed Roller is a reminder of the diversity and wonder of the natural world and provides valuable insight into the complex interplay between ecology, behavior, and conservation.

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