Monday, 27 December 2010

European roller

Coracias garrulus

(Photo from Internet Bird Collection)

Common name:

Order Coraciiformes
Family Coraciidae

These birds breed in the Palearctic, from north-west Africa and Iberia in the west, along the Mediterranean basin and north-east to the Ukraine, Belarus and the Baltic states. They are also found breeding in Turkey, through Iran, Pakistan and Turkmenistan, all the way to China and southern Siberia. They winter in Africa in two separate regions from Senegal east to Cameroon and from Ethiopia west to Congo and south to South Africa.

The European roller is 29-32 cm long and has a wingspan of 52-58 cm. They weigh 120-190 g.

They are found in warm, dry, open country with scattered trees, preferring lowland open countryside with patches of oak Quercus forest, mature pine Pinus woodland with heathery clearings, orchards, mixed farmland, river valleys, and plains with scattered thorny or leafy trees. It winters primarily in dry wooded savanna and bushy plains.

The European roller is mostly insectivorous, hunting large insects including Orthoptera and Coleoptera. They also take spiders, small reptiles, rodents and frogs.

They start breeding in May. The nest is a cavity in a tree or old building, but they also use nest boxes where available. The female lays 4-7 white eggs which are incubated for 19 days. After hatching the young stay in the nest for 28 days, being fed by both parents until fledging. pairs without a clutches will often help defend the chicks of another pair.

IUCN status - NT (Near-Threatened)
Although they have a very large breeding range, the population has undergone a moderately rapid decline. The global population is currently estimated at 200.000-700.000 individuals and the main threats are loss of habitats due to agricultural intensification and pesticide abuse, both limiting the availability of food. During migration they are hunted and hundreds, perhaps even thousands are shot for food every year in Oman and India.

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