The European Roller

05 October 2016

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The European Roller, a species of global conservation concern, is a common passage migrant and breeding summer visitor. It resembles a crow in size and build, but very unlike a crow, it has stunningly colourful plumage. The head, neck and underparts are light blue, whilst the upperparts are brownish-orange. Once the Roller extends its wings one can see the brilliant azure blue leading edge and the contrasting black wing-tips. A short, thin black stripe runs through the eye and the tail is greenish-blue with a darker base. 

There are two subspecies of the European Roller; Coracias garrulus semenowi differs from Coracias garrulus garrulus by being slightly paler. In Cyprus, the dominate subspecies is the Coracias g. garrulus.

The latest estimate for the summer Roller population in Cyprus is between 1,000 and 3,000 breeding pairs. This estimate was made in 2013 for the purposes of reporting under Article 12 of the EU Birds Directive [2009/147/EC]. The breeding range of the Roller in Cyprus is assessed as stable over the period 2001-2013, while the population of the species spending the summer on the island is estimated to have declined by between 30-50% over the same period.

One of the larger, most distinctive and most rich-in-qualifying species IBAs (Important Bird Areas), the Akamas Peninsula and Agia Aikaterini – Agia Paraskevi Gorges is the top breeding site on the island for the European Roller, with Karpasia Peninsula being the second most important site.

The heavy-bodied European Roller feeds on invertebrates, such as beetles, crickets, locusts, caterpillars, flies and spiders. They are also known to prey on small numbers of larger animals such as frogs, lizards, snakes and weak, small birds. It spends long periods sitting on elevated spots, such as a bare branch or a power line, watching the ground attentively for potential prey.
 
The European roller migrates vast distances between continents. From the breeding grounds of Europe and Asia, the Roller flies over 10,000 kilometres to sub-Saharan Africa, repeating the colossal journey again in spring. The movement in early April of hundreds of thousands of Rollers travelling north in a narrow corridor along the coast, from Tanzania to Somalia, is one of Africa’s most spectacularly visible migrations.
 
Whilst on its breeding ground, the monogamous European Roller will defend a territory with its mating partner. Within this territory a nest site is situated in a hole in a large tree, building, cliff or riverbank. A clutch most commonly of four or five, eggs are laid from May to June. The eggs are incubated, primarily by the female, for 17 to 19 days. The chicks hatch naked and blind, but quickly develop, and fledge after 25 to 30 days. The young continue to be fed by adults for a further three weeks or more.
 
According to the latest European Red List Assessment, the Roller has an extremely large range in Europe and despite the fact that the population appears to be decreasing, the decline is no more believed to be sufficiently rapid to approach the thresholds for Vulnerable. For these reasons, the Roller is evaluated as Least Concern in Europe.

The loss of suitable breeding habitat due to changing agricultural practices, conversion to monoculture, loss of nest sites, and use of pesticides (reducing food availability) are considered to be the main threats to the species in Europe.

Photos
European Roller
European Roller
European Roller
European Roller

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