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The purple roller is the largest of the rollers, growing to a length of 35 to 40 cm (14 to 16 in). From a distance it appears a dull brownish bird with a white stripe over the eye, a patch of white on the nape and a dark tail. The northern population tend to have a rufus crown. The underparts are purplish-pink streaked with white. The wings are long and rounded while the tail is square-cut.
Shrubland just before the new growth was seen on the trees.