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” [https://leesbird.com/2013/12/24/hidden-in-plain-view-lesson-from-a-motmot-by-james-j-s-johnson/ ].
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.
LILAC-BREASTED ROLLER (Earth Trekkers)