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Venturesome Overland

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This little bird looks like it has been held by its legs and dragged through a palette of paint.

The Lilac-breasted roller is a beautiful bird, made all the more so for the way in which it stands out against a landscape largely lacking in bright colors. It’s the size of a crow or a magpie back home, and a member of the roller family, which dips and rolls side-to-side as it flies. Our guide book says that the rolling is part of territorial or courtship displays. A Motswana we met once said it looks like they’re just showing off their extraordinary plumage.

And it is extraordinary. I have to rely on our Audubon book to describe it:

“Heavy black bill; pale green crown and nape; black line through eye; white eyebrow and chin. Dark purplish-lilac throat and chest with fine white streaks; turquoise belly, wing patch, rump, and tail. Cinnamon-rufous back; dark purple shoulders.”

Impossible, right? Reading that, can you even picture what this bird must look like? It looks like a flying amethyst, and even that doesn’t even come close to describing it. Like so much in nature, words don’t do it justice.



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