The Indian Roller.
Coracias indica, Linn. Syst. Nat. i, p. 159 (1766); Blyth, Cat. p. 51; Horsf. & M. Cat. ii, p. 571; Jerdon, B. 1. i, p. 214.; Stol. J. A. S. B. xxxvii, pt. 2, p. 19; Brooks, J. A. S. B. xli, pt. 2, p. 73; Hume, S. F. i, p. 167; id. Cat. no. 123; Blanf. East. Pers. ii, p. 126 ; Legge, Birds Ceyl. p. 281 ; Scully, S. F. viii, p. 237; Murray, Vert. Zool. Sind, p. 109; Barnes, Birds Bom. p. 97; id. Jour. Bomb. N. H. Soc. iv, p. 9; Davidson, Jour. Bomb. N. H. Soc. i, p. 176; Oates in Hume's N. & E. 2nd ed. iii, p. 53; Sharpe, P. Z. S. 1890, p. 547; id. Cat. B. M. xvii, p. 10.
Nilkant, Salzak, H. ; Tas, Mahr.; Palu pitta, Tel. ; Kattu kadei, Pal-kuruvi, Tarn.; Panang-karda, Tam. Ceylon ; Doong-kowluwa, Cing.; Blue Jay or Jay of Europeans in India.
Coloration. Narrow forehead and chin pale brownish rufous; crown and nape bluish green, brighter and bluer above the eyes ; hind neck and sides of neck deep vinous; back, scapulars, and tertiaries dull greenish brown ; small coverts near the edge of the wing deep purplish blue, other coverts light greyish green, except the outer large primary and the tips of the other greater coverts, which, with the edge of the wing, all under wing-coverts, and axillaries, are pale blue ; quills deep purplish blue ; a broad light blue band across the terminal half of the primaries, the tips dark, with the outer webs greenish. Bump light greenish blue, mixed with deep blue ; upper tail-coverts chiefly deep blue ; middle tail-feathers dull dark green, basal part near shaft blue ; other tail-feathers deep blue, crossed near the tip by a broad pale blue band, wider on the outer feathers. Sides of head and throat purplish lilac, with broad whitish shaft-stripes ; breast vinous rufous, with less marked white shaft-stripes; abdomen and lower tail-coverts pale blue like wing-lining.
Bill blackish brown; iris greyish brown ; eyelid and naked skin round the eye pale gamboge ; feet brownish yellow (Butler).
Length about 13 ; tail 5 ; wing 7.3 ; tarsus 1; bill from gape 1.7.
Distribution. Throughout India and Ceylon in suitable localities, not ascending the Himalayas nor the hills of the Peninsula in general, and wanting both in thick jungle and in open treeless deserts. East of Calcutta this species is replaced by C. affinis, but to the westward, though it becomes rare in the Northern Punjab and wanting in Kashmir, it is found sparingly throughout Baluchistan, all round the shores of the Persian Gulf to Muscat, and stragglers have even been obtained in Asia Minor and on the Bosphorus.
Habits, &c. This is one of the typical Indian birds familiar to all inhabitants of the country. It is commonly found in cultivated tracts on trees about villages, and in thin tree and bush jungle. It is, as Blyth remarks, one of the birds that perch on telegraph, wires. Jerdon says :—" It generally takes its perch on the top or outermost branch of some high tree, and, on spying an insect on the ground, which it can do at a very great distance, it flies direct to the spot, seizes it, and returns to its perch to swallow it. A favourite perch of the Roller is a bowrie pole, or some leafless tree, whence it can see well all round, also old buildings, a haystack or other elevated spot, sometimes a low bush or a heap of earth or of stones. "When seated, it puffs out the feathers of its head and neck. I have on several occasions seen one pursue an insect in the air for some distance, and when the winged termites issue from their nest after rain, the Boiler, like almost every other bird, catches them on the wing." (The Boiler is also conspicuous at jungle fires, hunting for insects, and perhaps for lizards, in company with kites, crows, and king-crows.) " It flies in general with a slow but continued flapping of its wings, not unlike the crow, though more buoyant; but it has the habit of occasionally making sudden darts in the air in all directions. Its food is chiefly large insects, grasshoppers, crickets, Mantidae, and even beetles, occasionally a small fieldmouse or shrew." " The Roller has a very harsh grating cry or scream, which it always utters when disturbed and often at other times also." " The Nilkant is sacred to Siva, who assumed its form, and at the feast of the Dusserah at Nagpur, one or more used to be liberated by the Rajah." The liberation of this bird takes place during other Hindu ceremonies in various parts of India.
In most parts of India the Roller is resident, but it. leaves the open Bombay Deccan for better wooded tracts, according to several observers, during the breeding-season. It breeds from March in Upper India, from January in Ceylon, till June or July, but chiefly in March, April, and May, making use of a hole in a tree, or sometimes in an old wall or the roof of a house. The nest is generally lined with a varying amount of vegetable fibre, grass, a few feathers or some old rags, but the lining is often omitted altogether. The eggs are a broad oval, of the purest china-white and very glossy, usually 4 in number (occasionally 5); they measure about 1.3 by 1.06.