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Facts about Kenya's monogamous national bird, Lilac-breasted Roller

In Kenya, where almost everyone loves chicken, there is another special bird, the lilac-breasted roller.

A photo of a Lilac-breasted Roller. In the background is a lion.

Even though chicken rules the kitchen, the lilac-breasted roller is like a hidden treasure, flying high and looking all colorful.

Despite the widespread adoration for chicken in Kenyan cuisine, this unofficial national bird stands as a testament to the country's rich biodiversity.

The lilac-breasted roller is easy to spot, adorned in a vibrant palette of lilac, turquoise, and green.

Here are some interesting facts about this colorful bird.

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The lilac-breasted roller is renowned for its vibrant and multicolored plumage -the layer of feathers that covers a bird and the pattern, colour, and arrangement of those feathers.

It boasts around 8 distinct colors, including green, white, black, yellow, turquoise, dark blue, reddish-brown, and, of course, lilac. This striking array of colors is said to symbolize the diverse ethnic groups found in Kenya.

In Kenyan culture, the lilac-breasted roller holds special significance as a symbol of the country's rich diversity. It is also known as "Kambu" in Swahili, the local language.

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These birds are fearless hunters, known for their acrobatic aerial displays during the breeding season.

These beautiful birds are monogamous and mate for life. Females lay two to four eggs, which are incubated by both parents in turns.

During a mating flight, a lilac-breasted roller will fly upwards for about ten meters (33 feet) and then swoop down with wings closed. The bird may also roll from side to side while flying very fast.

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They are unafraid of humans, making them a unique and captivating sight in the wild.

The lilac-breasted roller is widely distributed in Southern and East Africa, and often wonders into to the southern Arabian Peninsula.

Its range extends from the Red Sea coast of Eritrea through East Africa to Namibia, Botswana, Zimbabwe, and northeastern South Africa.

In Kenya, they can be spotted in areas such as Maasai Mara Game Reserve and Tsavo National Park.

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The lilac-breasted roller has a distinctive hunting technique. It is known to swoop down on its prey, and if the prey is small, it will swallow it on the ground.

For larger prey, the bird will carry it back to a perch and beat it until it is dismembered.

The lilac-breasted roller's menu includes arthropods and small vertebrates. This colorful bird has a diverse palate, indulging in ground-dwelling insects, spiders, scorpions, centipedes, and millipedes.

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Snails also make it to the list, alongside various small vertebrates, including little birds.

The lilac-breasted roller is particularly skilled at nabbing slow-moving lizards, chameleons, and small snakes.

In various African cultures, the lilac-breasted roller is associated with love and marriage. For instance, the Afrikaners, descendants of Dutch settlers in South Africa, have historically used the bird's feathers to decorate wedding dresses.

The bird lives in open savannah habitats with scattered trees and shrubs, as they require higher perches for feeding and nesting. They are also found in riverine vegetation and light forest.

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