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The Lilac-Breasted Roller: 5 Interesting Facts About Kenya’s National Bird

As the global pandemic continues, people across the world are finding themselves confined to their houses, running out of ways to entertain themselves. Well, for anyone living in Kenya, it might be the perfect time to go bird-watching.

Kenya boasts over 1000 species of bird from herons and storks, to weavers and sparrows. However, there is one bird that is inarguably a Kenyan national treasure. Indeed, for many people, this bird is considered a national symbol for Kenya.

Yes, that bird is the lilac-breasted roller. The roller is perhaps the only bird in Kenya that, when sighted, provokes as much crooning as the sighting of a lion or cheetah. So, in this article, we dive deeper into the lilac-breasted roller.

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1. Kenya’s National Bird

The lilac-breasted roller is Kenya’s national bird because of the wide array of colours on its feather coat. In total, it has around 8 colours: green, white, black, yellow, turquoise, dark blue, reddish-brown, and lilac.

The colours are supposed to represent the many different tribes that make up Kenya’s community. It is a beautiful reference to the rich diversity that exists within Kenya.

2The bird is called ‘Kambu’ in Swahili.

The Swahili word for the lilac-breasted roller is much less of a mouthful than the English word. Interestingly, there are two subspecies of the bird, the lilac-breasted roller being one. The other one is known as the lilac-throated roller or even the blue-breasted roller.

3. The lilac-breasted roller is not dimorphic.

Dimorphic animals are those that show clear visible differences between the two sexes. Peacocks, baboons, spiders and even humans are all examples of dimorphic animals.

The lilac-breasted roller is not a dimorphic animal. Both females and males are equally as stunning as each other and it is hard to tell the difference between the two.

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4. Lilac-breasted rollers feed off arthropods and small invertebrates.

Spiders, scorpions, centipedes, millipedes and snails make up the staples of a lilac-breasted roller’s diet. These birds have been known to linger around recently burned farmland in search of insects that have been pushed out of the undergrowth.

Lilac-breasted rollers have also been known to prey on slow-moving lizards, chameleons and snakes.

5. Lilac-breasted rollers have a unique hunting technique.

This bird is known to be a fearless creature. They do not fear humans in the same way many other birds do.

Their fearlessness is also exhibited in one of their hunting techniques. They swoop down on their prey and, if the prey is too big to be eaten whole, they discombobulate it with their wings until it is safe to eat.

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