Way back on April 12, before Bigwig convinced me to do my own work instead of just snapping pictures and hitting the “forward” button to his email address, one of the prettiest of the Coraciiformes appeared here on Silflay in Bigwig’s post Birds Of Iraq: Fred’s Spotted Wonder Chickens. Prior to that, he also posted on two of the three kingfishers found in Iraq (Alcedinidae family) here and here, and mentioned that the Hoopoe (Upupidae family) had also been seen, leaving only the family of Coraciidae unaccounted for from the Order of Coraciiformes.
Now present for duty, the Indian Roller, Coracias benghalensis, is one of two species of the Coraciidae native to Iraq.
I actually saw one back in June, but I didn’t get a picture. As Bigwig noted at the very beginning of “Birds of Iraq”, seeing them is a lot easier than snapping a picture of them. I actually had a bead on one with my Canon, but two UH-60s came over just then, and scared off all the birds in the surrounding area. Fortunately, like the other Rollers, the Indian “often sits on prominent perch (wires, poles, dead branches) taking prey on ground in shrike-like manner,” (as Birds of the Middle East tells us), so to find him you don’t have to search thru the trees or brush like some of the other birds we have here. I just didn’t know the right place to look. Recently a pair of them has taken to sitting on the wires in the morning, near the guard shack on the way to BIAP.
Also known in India as the simple Blue Jay, “it is likely that the beauty of the bird is what inspired the Hindu belief according to which Vishnu (the Preserver of the universe) had once assumed the form of the Blue Jay thus making it sacred.” You can even name your son after the blue jay in India – not sure I would be pleased to have the title of “jay bird” affixed to me permanently, however.
And where does the “Roller” part come from?
“During mating, the males perform ornate sexual displays as they fly upward, then roll and fall through the air while wildly flapping their wings and screaming harshly. Rollers nest in trees or buildings using twigs and other vegetation to build its nest. In March or April a clutch of three to five eggs is laid. Frogs, when available, form a large proportion of the Indian Roller’s diet. It also eats larger insects such as grasshoppers and crickets. Butterflies and moths may be caught in midair. It ranges from Iraq and Iran through Pakistan, India, Burma, southeast Asia, Tibet, and parts of China.”
Previously: The Collared Pratincole
Next: Purple and Grey