Rollers Robed in Rainbows!

Rollers Robed in Rainbows!

Dr. James J. S. Johnson

The heavens declare the glory of God; and the firmament shows His handiwork.  (Psalm 19:1)

Who teaches us more than the beasts of the earth, and makes us wiser than the fowls of heaven?  (Job 35:11)


LILAC-BREASTED ROLLER   (Answers Africa photo)

The beauty shown above is a LILAC-BREASTED ROLLER (Coracias caudatus), what you might call a “roller robed in rainbows”, living mostly in sub-Saharan Africa.  This roller is also known as “Mosilikatze’s Roller” (an allusion to the African king Mzilikazi, who once ruled what later became known as Rhodesia and now Zimbabwe  —  King Mzilikazi was noted in the writings of Dr. David Livingstone, the famous missionary).

“Rollers” are classified by taxonomists (i.e., biological category “groupies”) as Coraciiformes, a fancy word meaning “raven-form”(i.e., outwardly resembling a raven or crow), which suggests that rollers appear to be kin to (or at least superficially similar to) other Coraciiformes, such as bee-eaters, kingfishers, motmots, and todies – many of which, like rollers, are also very colorful insect-eaters.  (These rollers love to eat insects, yet they also eat lizards, arachnids, snails, little birds, and even tiny rodents.)

The name “roller” refers to the airborne acrobatics that these birds perform during courtship displays and showy territorial flights. Rollers are also known for their monogamy, i.e., being loyal to their respective mates.  Rollers usually live in warm parts of the Eastern Hemisphere, especially parts of Africa.


LILAC-BREASTED ROLLER   (Wikipedia Commons)

This blog’s readers may recall an earlier post about a different Coraciiforme, the splendidly painted Turquoise-browed Motmot, (Eumomota superciliosa) of Mexico’s Yucatan Peninsula  — see “Hidden-in-Plain-View Lesson from a Motmot:  God’s Beauty Outshines Human Ugliness” [ ].


TURQUOISE-BROWED MOTMOT   (Dominic Mitchell photograph)

The Turquoise-browed Motmot’s bright cyan/turquoise and pale blue plumage, offset by green and cinnamon pastels, is brightened by brilliant cobalt/peacock blue/indigo parts, presenting very conspicuous coloring easy to see and to appreciate, especially if one is a birdwatcher.  However, as shown above, the African Lilac-breasted Roller is well attired with its own color-blended plumage! .  Look (below) at the Rollers’ pastel greens, cyan, and lilac/lavender plumage, contrasted with their brilliant peacock blue plumage on their backs!  Obviously God enjoys using bright colors on bird feathers!


LILAC-BREASTED ROLLERS   (photograph by Rob Ellis, Tanzania)

The magnificently colored LILAC-BREASTED ROLLER picture (above) was taken by Rob Ellis (of New Tribes Mission), in Kunduchi, Tanzania.   Rob Ellis has thus documented a small yet glamorous example of God’s glorious creativity  —  what elegantly painted rollers they are, as they perch using utility structures!  (Thanks, Rob!)

Although Coraciiformes are not classified taxonomically as “passerines” (whereas crows and ravens are deemed “passerines”), rollers certainly know the skill of perching (illustrated above), as they watch for their next insect prey.

The psalmist told us that “the heavens declare the glory of God”(Psalm 19:1; see also Psalm 97:6) –  and they do!  Yet also recall that the ancient Hebrews considered the skies (i.e., the air-filled atmosphere above the land and seas) as part of the “heavens” (Genesis 1:20; Genesis 7:23; Job 35:11; Psalm 104:12; Jeremiah 4:25; Ezekiel 31:13; Daniel 4:12; etc.),  —  so it should not surprise us when we see God’s creative glory displayed in such beautiful birds as the Lilac-breasted Rollers, in Tanzania, that Rob Ellis has photographed for us to see.




Avian And Attributes – Rainbow

Rainbow Lorikeet Lowry Park Zoo 12-31-15 by Lee

“Like the appearance of a rainbow in a cloud on a rainy day, so was the appearance of the brightness all around it. This was the appearance of the likeness of the glory of the LORD. So when I saw it, I fell on my face, and I heard a voice of One speaking.
(Ezekiel 1:28 NKJV)

Avian and Attributes – Rainbow

RA’INBOW, n. A bow, or an arch of a circle, consisting of all the colors formed by the refraction and reflection of rays of light from drops of rain or vapor, appearing in the part of the hemisphere opposite to the sun. When the sun is at the horizon, the rainbow is a semicircle. The rainbow is called also iris.
The moon sometimes forms a bow or arch of light, more faint than that formed by the sun, and called lunar rainbow. Similar bows at sea are called marine rainbows or sea bows.

Rainbow Bee-eater

Rainbow Bee-eater (Merops ornatus) by Ian

Rainbow Lorikeet

Rainbow Lorikeet by Lee at Zoo Tampa

Rainbow Pitta

Rainbow Pitta-Australia-Birdway

Rainbow Starfrontlet

Rainbow Starfrontlet ©Brendan Ryan Flickr

Rainbow-bearded Thornbill

Rainbow-bearded Thornbill (Chalcostigma herrani) ©Flickr Jei Pov

More Avian and Attributes

Birds whose first or last name starts with “R”

Good News

[Definitions from Webster’s Dictionary of American English (1828), unless noted. Bird info from Wikipedia plus.]

Western Tanager: Red and Yellow, Black and White


Western Tanager  /  photo credit:  Wild Birds Unlimited


Dr. James J. S. Johnson

Although not as spectacularly colorful as the Painted Bunting of central and south Texas, the Western Tanager is certainly an eye-catching bird of montane forests, with showy colorfulness, especially the red-and-yellow-black-and-white male.  And like other birds, they are “precious in His (i.e., the Lord’s) sight”, although not as precious as the human race, of which the children’s song (“Jesus Loves the Little Children”) observes:

Jesus loves the little children

All the children of the world:

Red and yellow, black and white;

They are precious in His sight!

Jesus loves the little children of the world!

[Quoting lyrics written roughly a century ago, by C. Herbert Woolston, a Chicago pastor; actually those well-known lyrics were the refrain to a larger song that began with “Jesus calls the children dear”.]

So what about this red-and-yellow-black-and-white passerine of America’s Great West?


Western Tanager range map  /  Cornell University

This tanager breeds and summers mostly in the coniferous forests of Rocky Mountain states and westward —  New Mexico, Colorado, Wyoming, Montana, Idaho, Utah, Arizona, Oregon, Washington, western Canada, plus slivers of territory in northern California and in western Texas.  [See also Roger Tory Peterson’s A FIELD GUIDE TO WESTERN BIRDS, 3rd edition (Houghton Mifflin, 1990), showing a narrower range map M368.]

And the Western Tanager is truly a colorful denizen of the higher elevations.

The only U.S. tanager [since the Flame-colored Tanager is supposed to stay within Mexico, its “normal” range] with strong wing bars. Male: Yellow, with a black back, wings, and tail, two wing bars, and a red head.  The red disappears in autumn and winter. Female: Yellowish below; dull olive above, with white and yellow wing bars.  Resembles female orioles …  but the tail and sides of the face are darker, and the bill is less sharply pointed.

[Quoting Peterson’s WESTERN BIRDS (cited above), from page 314.]

Mixed colors in avian plumage are beautiful to the eye, yet rainbows also are chromatically spectacular.


RAINBOW in the clouds  /  Readers Digest photograph

But what good are rainbows, besides being beautiful to behold? The foundational importance of the rainbow is a message from God Himself:  to remind us of a specific promise that God made to Noah, and to Noah’ family (and thus to the entire human race on this side of the worldwide Flood), and even to the air-breathing animals who survived the Flood as disembarked Arklings (and thus also to all of their direct-descendants):

And you, be ye fruitful, and multiply; bring forth abundantly in the earth, and multiply therein. And God spake unto Noah, and to his sons with him, saying, And I, behold, I establish My covenant with you, and with your seed after you; And with every living creature that is with you, of the fowl, of the cattle, and of every beast of the earth with you; from all that go out of the Ark, to every beast of the earth. And I will establish My covenant with you, neither shall all flesh be cut off any more by the waters of a flood; neither shall there anymore be a flood to destroy the earth. And God said, This is the token of the covenant which I make between Me and you and every living creature that is with you, for perpetual generations: I do set My rainbow in the cloud, and it shall be for a token of a covenant between Me and the earth. And it shall come to pass, when I bring a cloud over the earth, that the rainbow shall be seen in the cloud: And I will remember My covenant, which is between Me and you and every living creature of all flesh; and the waters shall no more become a flood to destroy all flesh. And the rainbow shall be in the cloud; and I will look upon it, that I may remember the everlasting covenant between God and every living creature of all flesh that is upon the earth. And God said unto Noah, This is the token of the covenant, which I have established between Me and all flesh that is upon the earth.   (GENESIS 9:7-17)

That’s the true symbolism of the rainbow —  a holy promise given to Noah, a holy “preacher of righteousness” who lived both before and after the global Flood.

Interestingly, it appears that before the “fountains of the great deep” (see Genesis 7:11 — discussed at ) broke up, making today’s volcanoes look puny by comparison, it is unlikely that rainbows were meteorologically plausible – see — buttressed by . (But that discussion must await another time and/or place.)

Obviously, any attempt to steal and transmogrify the message of the rainbow —  by those losers who foment vitriolic hate speech against God (and against His laws, and against His servants)  —  is an illegitimate and irrational blasphemy against God Himself (WHo owns and operates all rainbows), as well as an attempted fraud on His creation.

Meanwhile, many generations after Noah, another saint (i.e., another human believer whose sins are forgiven in Christ), Joseph, was given a “coat of diverse colors” (see Genesis 37:3 & 37:23 & 37:32). Joseph, of course, foreshadowed the Lord Jesus in many aspects of Joseph’s life (e.g., forsaken by his brothers, mistreated, delivered to Gentiles, falsely accused, suffering for the crime of others, not recognized by his brothers, eventually reconciling with his brothers due to his choice to forgive them, as he rescued whole populations of people who would otherwise have perished, etc.).

And, much later in Scripture, in the Apocalypse (i.e., the Revelation of the Lord Jesus Christ, given to John the Evangelist), we see the rainbow again, gloriously reminding us of future activities in world history, as God continues to operate as humanity’s) Judge (Revelation 4:3 & 10:1).

So, let your rainbow colors fly – and don’t let an enemy of God steal God’s colors on your watch!  The day will one day arrive, God knows when,  climaxing spiritual conflicts throughout human history, when it will be proven beyond genuine dispute that THE RAINBOW BELONGS TO GOD, because He said so – He called it “My covenant”, so it is His property.


ARK ENCOUNTER (Answers in Genesis) with rainbow lighting

photo credit” WYMT Mountain News / Gray TV Inc.

So it’s a good idea to display God’s rainbow, as Answers in Genesis has recently done, in a setting that commemorated Noah’s Ark. And it is also a good idea – when watching a male Western Tanager perching on a tree-branch, or flitting about somewhere in an evergreen forest of the Rockies (during summer), to remember that timeless and wonderful truth that Pastor Woolston worded as lyrics:

Jesus loves the little children

All the children of the world:

Red and yellow, black and white;

They are precious in His sight!

Jesus loves the little children of the world!


Western Tanager on evergreen branch  /  Josip Turkalj at Yellowston N.P., on YouTube

Lee’s Five Word Friday – 7/15/16


Painted Bunting (Passerina ciris) ©©Flickr



“And he that sat was to look upon like a jasper and a sardine stone: and there was a rainbow round about the throne, in sight like unto an emerald.” (Revelation 4:3 KJV)

Painted Bunting (Passerina ciris) ©©Flickr


More Daily Devotionals


Birds of the Bible – Foundation #4 – Updated

Landscape with Noah’s Thank Offering (painting circa 1803 by Joseph Anton Koch)

We will continue on with the Birds of the Bible – Foundation series.

If you have not read the previous blogs:
Foundation #1 – Updated,  –  Foundation #2 – Updated –  Foundation #3 –  Updated

The last article in this series left the world, Noah, his family, the animals, birds and creeping things in a rough situation. All the world was violently rearranged by the global flood and all air-breathing creation was dead, except for those on board the Ark.

Which sometime were disobedient, when once the longsuffering of God waited in the days of Noah, while the ark was a preparing, wherein few, that is, eight souls were saved by water. (1 Peter 3:20)

But first must he (Christ-the Creator) suffer many things, and be rejected of this generation. And as it was in the days of Noah, so shall it be also in the days of the Son of man. They did eat, they drank, they married wives, they were given in marriage, until the day that Noah entered into the ark, and the flood came, and destroyed them all. (Luke 17:25-27)

Just as those who were saved by being in the Ark, so are we by putting our trust in the Lord Jesus Christ. “For there is one God, and one mediator between God and men, the man Christ Jesus;” (1 Timothy 2:5)

Northern Raven (Corvus corax) by Kent Nickell

Northern Raven (Corvus corax) by Kent Nickell

Finally, (Noah and all were in the Ark for over a year.) Noah opened the window in the ark and sent forth a raven. The raven which flew back and forth to the ark until the land was dried up. Noah, then sent out the Dove (female) to see if the ground was off the ground. Doves are ground feeders and also like to put their nests on the ground many times. She found no resting place for her feet and so Noah put out his hand and brought her back inside. Noah waited 7 more days and sent the dove out again and this time she came back with an olive leaf. This let Noah know that the waters were receding. When he released her again 7 more days later, the dove did not return. “The surface of the ground was dry.” (Genesis 8:7-12)

Eurasian Collared Dove (Streptopelia decaocto) by Lee at Honeymoon Is SP

Eurasian Collared Dove (Streptopelia decaocto) by Lee at Honeymoon Is SP

After 7 more days: “God spoke to Noah, saying,”

“Go out of the ark, you and your wife, and your sons and your sons’ wives with you. Bring out with you every living thing of all flesh that is with you: birds and cattle and every creeping thing that creeps on the earth, so that they may abound on the earth, and be fruitful and multiply on the earth.” So Noah went out, and his sons and his wife and his sons’ wives with him. Every animal, every creeping thing, every bird, and whatever creeps on the earth, according to their families, went out of the ark. Then Noah built an altar to the LORD, and took of every clean animal and of every clean bird, and offered burnt offerings on the altar. And the LORD smelled a soothing aroma. Then the LORD said in His heart, “I will never again curse the ground for man’s sake, although the imagination of man’s heart is evil from his youth; nor will I again destroy every living thing as I have done. “While the earth remains, Seedtime and harvest, Cold and heat, Winter and summer, And day and night Shall not cease.” (Genesis 8:16-22 NKJV)

That is a tremendous promise and in Genesis 9, God blesses Noah and his sons and then makes some statements:

  • Be fruitful and multiply, and fill the earth
  • Fear of you and the dread of you shall be on every beast, bird, all that move on the earth, all fish of the sea. Are given into your hand
  • Every moving thing that lives shall be food. (Man is no longer just a vegetarian)
  • You shall not eat flesh with its life, that is, its blood
  • Whoever sheds man’s blood, By man his blood shall be shed; For in the image of God He made man.
  • God makes a covenant with man and every living creature

Genesis 9:11-17 NKJV
(11)  Thus I establish My covenant with you: Never again shall all flesh be cut off by the waters of the flood; never again shall there be a flood to destroy the earth.”
(12)  And God said: “This is the sign of the covenant which I make between Me and you, and every living creature that is with you, for perpetual generations:
(13)  I set My rainbow in the cloud, and it shall be for the sign of the covenant between Me and the earth.
(14)  It shall be, when I bring a cloud over the earth, that the rainbow shall be seen in the cloud;
(15)  and I will remember My covenant which is between Me and you and every living creature of all flesh; the waters shall never again become a flood to destroy all flesh.
(16)  The rainbow shall be in the cloud, and I will look on it to remember the everlasting covenant between God and every living creature of all flesh that is on the earth.”
(17)  And God said to Noah, “This is the sign of the covenant which I have established between Me and all flesh that is on the earth.”

Rainbow by Mike Bader

Rainbow by Mike Bader

What a tremendous promise! Even though man and critters are still cursed, God will never bring another global flood.

As for the birds and other critters, we find from God’s Word that there are changes for them. They now can become food for man and other critters, they now have a fear and dread of man who has dominion over them, they now become eaters of others. They are still to reproduce and spread out and fill the earth, they are promised never to be totally destroyed again by a global flood, etc. Somewhere between the Fall in the garden of Eden and this, the nature of birds and critters is drastically changed from what God originally created them to be. All because of SIN.

We will continue to Birds of the Bible – Foundation #5 soon.

Some links to some informative articles about the flood:


Sharing the Gospel

Lord’s Avian Wonders – Eastern Rosella

Eastern Rosella Gatorland by Dan

Eastern Rosella Gatorland by Dan

“I set My rainbow in the cloud, and it shall be for the sign of the covenant between Me and the earth.” (Genesis 9:13 NKJV)

What a delight for me to find two Eastern Rosellas in the little free-flight aviary at Gatorland last week. We have been there two other times, but not when the aviary was open.

Because of Ian’s Bird of the Week articles about the Rosella, these two caught my eye. Never did get a decent photo of them, but never the less, we enjoyed seeing them in person. Dan’s photos were better, of course. They seem quite pale compared to Ian’s photo of one in the wild.

Eastern Rosella (Platycercus eximius) by Ian

Eastern Rosella (Platycercus eximius) by Ian

“The rainbow shall be in the cloud, and I will look on it to remember the everlasting covenant between God and every living creature of all flesh that is on the earth.” (Genesis 9:16 NKJV)

This Rosella reminds me of the colors of a rainbow. Maybe the Lord gave us this beautiful bird to remind us of his promise, even on a non-rainy day.

Here are just a few photos from the aviary:

Gatorland, Florida

Ian’s Eastern Rosella photos at Birdway

Psittaculidae – Old World Parrots

Enjoy seeing the really good photos and newsletters from Ian Montgomery:

Who Paints The Leaves?


Ian’s Bird of the Week – Red-collared Lorikeet

Red-collared Lorikeet (Trichoglossus rubritorquis) by Ian

Red-collared Lorikeet (Trichoglossus rubritorquis) by Ian

Newsletter 9/3/2009

Here’s the catch-up bird of the week as promised yesterday.

Red-collared Lorikeet (Trichoglossus rubritorquis) by Ian

Red-collared Lorikeet (Trichoglossus rubritorquis) by Ian

If you looked at the photos and said “that’s just a Rainbow Lorikeet!”, you’d be right, sort of, and if you said “that’s like a Rainbow Lorikeet but different” you’d be right exactly. This is the Northern race (rubritorquis) of the Rainbow Lorikeet and is sufficiently distinct to have once been considered a separate species, the Red-collared Lorikeet. The differences include the orange, rather than yellowish-green nape and the orange, rather than red, breast and black, rather than purple, belly.

It’s range is similar to that of the previous bird of the week, the Green-Backed Gerygone – including both the Kimberley district of NW Western Australia and the Top End of the Northern Territory – but it extends farther east around the Gulf of Carpentaria as far as Western Cape York Peninsula in Queensland.

Like the eastern race, this is a noisy, gregarious and common bird and very easy to take for granted. It took an English birder (thank you, Nigel!) to point out how amazingly beautiful and colourful the Rainbow Lorikeets are, a comment that stopped me in my tracks and made me regard them in a new light.

I took these photos during my stopover in Mataranka. This place is famous for its thermal springs which feed the Roper and Little Roper Rivers with permanent water. The water emerges at a temperature of 34ºC/93ºF which would be wonderful in a cold climate, but is far from refreshing when the air temperature is 37º as it was when I was there. For my second swim, I chose to swim with the (shy) Freshwater Crocodiles farther down the Roper River where the water was cooler.

The permanent water makes Mataranka an oasis in a dry landscape with great stands of Fan Palms and Pandanus. The similarity to :Lawn Hill and Adel’s Grove in Northwestern Queensland is more than just a coincidence, as Lawn Hill Creek is fed by the same giant, subterranean, geological structure as Mataranka, perhaps 600-700 km away. The only thing missing at Mataranka is the Purple-crowned Fairywren .

Anyway, time to pack up and leave Darwin for Kakadu. I hope that I’ll have something more special than a mere subspecies for you next week!

Best wishes,

Ian Montgomery, Birdway Pty Ltd,
454 Forestry Road, Bluewater, Qld 4818
Phone: +61-7 4751 3115
Preferred Email:

Rainbow Lorikeet (Trichoglossus moluccanus) by Ian

Rainbow Lorikeet (Trichoglossus moluccanus) by Ian

Lee’s Addition:
Here is a link to the Rainbow Lorikeet that Ian mentioned. He has some fabulous shots of them.

Some interesting facts about the Lories and Lorikeets from Wikipedia:

“The Red-collared Lorikeet, Trichoglossus rubritorquis, is a species of parrot found in wooded habitats in northern Australia (north-eastern Western Australia, northern Northern Territory and far north-western Queensland). It is sometimes considered a subspecies of the Rainbow Lorikeet, but today most major authorities consider them as separate species.[2][3] No other member of the Rainbow Lorikeet group has an orange-red collar over the nape.”

“Lories and lorikeets are small to medium-sized arboreal parrots characterizedby their specialized brush-tipped tongues for feeding on nectar and soft fruits. The species form a monophyletic group within the parrot family Psittacidae. Traditionally, they were considered one of the two subfamilies in that family (Loriinae), the other being the subfamily Psittacinae, but new insights show that it is placed in the middle of various other groups. To date, this issue has not been resolved scientifically. They are widely distributed throughout the Australasian region, including south-eastern Asia, Polynesia, Papua New Guinea and Australia, and the majority have very brightly colored plumage.”


Tongue of a Lory


“Lories and lorikeets have specialized brush-tipped tongues for feeding on nectar and soft fruits. They can feed from the flowers of about 5,000 species of plants and use their specialized tongues to take the nectar. The tip of their tongues have tufts of papillae (extremely fine hairs), which collect nectar and pollen. In the wild, lorikeets feed on nectar and pollen from plants and flowers.

Lorikeets have tapered wings and pointed tails that allow them to fly easily and display great agility. They also have strong feet and legs. They tend to be hyperactive and clownish in personality both in captivity and the wild.”

Its leaves were beautiful and its fruit abundant, and in it was food for all. The beasts of the field found shade under it, and the birds of the heavens lived in its branches, and all flesh was fed from it. (Daniel 4:12 ESV)