Returning from Mangalore, near Gurupura, I noticed this Indian roller, perched on the wire with its upper beak broken off. As the setting sun was shining its amber light on this bird, I wanted to captures its grittiness as well as its beauty. Despite the pretty badly damaged upper beak, bleak outlook many predict for such an injury, this bird has managed to survive for well over a year. I think it has learnt ways to cope up with its handicap very well. Survival of the fittest may be need to be rephrased to say, survival of the smartest, when it comes to this bird 🙂 Here I was using Canon EOS 7D Mark II with Canon EF 300mm f/2.8L II IS USM + Canon EF 1.4x III Extender
A beak is more like a human tooth than a human nail. As in, there are nerve endings connected to it, and that means that a cracked beak can be very painful. Also, many blood vessels run through it, so a bird that breaks its beak may actually die of blood loss. Small, superficial cracks at the edges of the beak that don’t bleed and don’t bother the bird in its eating and other habits may be nothing to worry too much about. In these cases the beak will grow out with enough time, especially if the bird’s diet includes enough calcium and appropriate surfaces for trimming. However, if the crack is deep, if the bird is not able to eat properly, if there is bleeding or any exposed wound that could get infected. A bird in the wild with a serious beak injury like the one seen here is not very likely to make it.
The Indian roller (Coracias benghalensis), is a member of the roller family of birds. They are found widely across tropical Asia stretching from Iraq eastward across the Indian Subcontinent to Indochina and are best known for the aerobatic displays of the male during the breeding season. They are very commonly seen perched along roadside trees and wires and are commonly seen in open grassland and scrub forest habitats. It is not migratory, but undertakes some seasonal movements.
The Indian roller is a stocky bird about 26–27 cm long and can only be confused within its range with the migratory European roller. The breast is brownish and not blue as in the European Roller. The crown and vent are blue. The primaries are deep purplish blue with a band of pale blue. The tail is sky blue with a terminal band of Prussian blue and the central feathers are dull green. The neck and throat are purplish lilac with white shaft streaks. The bare patch around the eye is ochre in colour. The three forward toes are united at the base. Rollers have a long and compressed bill with a curved upper edge and a hooked tip. The nostril is long and exposed and there are long rictal bristles at the base of the bill.
These birds are usually seen perched on prominent bare trees or wires. They descend to the ground to capture their prey which may include insects, arachnids, small reptiles (including Calotes versicolor and small snakes and amphibians. Fires attract them and they will also follow tractors for disturbed invertebrates. In agricultural habitats in southern India, they have been found at densities of about 50 birds per km2. They perch mainly on 3—10 metre high perches and feed mostly on ground insects. Nearly 50% of their prey are beetles and 25% made up by grasshoppers and crickets.
The display of this bird is an aerobatic display, with the twists and turns that give this species its English name. The breeding season is March to June, slightly earlier in southern India. Displays when perched include bill-up displays, bowing, allopreening, wing drooping and tail fanning. Holes created by woodpeckers or wood boring insects in palms are favoured for nesting in some areas. Nest cavities may also be made by tearing open rotten tree trunks or in cavities in building. The cavity is usually unlined and is made up mainly of debris from the wood. The normal clutch consists of about 3-5 eggs. The eggs are white and broad oval or nearly spherical. Both sexes incubate the eggs for about 17 to 19 days. The young fledge and leave the nest after about a month. Nearly 80% of the eggs hatch and fledge.
The call of the Indian roller is a harsh crow-like chack sound. It also makes a variety of other sounds, including metallic boink calls. It is especially vociferous during the breeding season. Blood parasites Leucocytozoon of the family Plasmodiidae have been noted in the lung tissues. Parasitic helminth worms Hadjelia truncata and Synhimantus spiralis were recorded as well.
The Indian roller is very common in the populated plains of India and associated with legends. It is said to be sacred to Vishnu, and used to be caught and released during festivals such as Dussera and Durga Puja. The Indian roller has been chosen as the state bird by the Indian states of Bihar, Andhra Pradesh, Telangana, Karnataka and Odisha.
4 thoughts on “Indian Roller With Broken Beak”
Good Detailed Info within a short blog Doc
Wow how did you get to observe this while driving back? That’s great observation Krishna. Also how did you guess that it has survived a year with the broken beak?
I had photographed this bird a year back. Other than watching oncoming vehicles, I observe perched birds on roadside wires. Recently I again noted this same roller at Gurupura :). That is why with confidence I could say it lasted one year or more after such a devastating injury.
Thanks Gopalakrishna Baliga 🙂