European Rollers

European Rollers (Coracias garrulus)

The European Rollers, Coracias garrulus, is the only member of the roller family of birds to breed in Europe. Its overall range extends into the Middle East Central Asia and Morocco.

There are two subspecies:

    • the nominate garrulus, which breeds in north Africa from Morocco east to Tunisia, southwest and south-central Europe and Asia Minor east through northwest Iran to southwest Siberia; and
    • Semenowi, which breeds in Iraq and Iran (except northwest) east to Kashmir and north to Turkmenistan, south Kazakhstan, and northwest China (west Xinjiang).
Two European Rollers Perched on Tree
Two European Rollers Perched on Tree

The European Rollers is a long-distance migrant, wintering in southern Africa in two distinct regions, from Senegal east to Cameroon and from Ethiopia west to Congo and south to South Africa.

It is a bird of 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, where it typically nests in tree holes.

Some populations migrate to Africa through India. A collision with an aircraft over the Arabian Sea has been recorded.

The European Roller has a large global population, including an estimated 100,000-220,000 individuals in Europe. However, following a moderate decline during 1970-1990, the species has continued to decline especially in Europe, with overall Europe exceeding 30% in three generations (15 years). In Estonia the 50-100 pairs in 1998 were reduced to no known breeding pairs in 2004; in Latvia and Lithuania, populations have decreased from several thousand pairs in the 1970s to under 30 pairs in 2004. In Russia, it has disappeared from the northern part of its range. However, there is no evidence of any decline in Central Asia.

The decline in the European population has resulted in its Red List status being upgraded from Least Concern to Near Threatened in 2005. Threats include persecution on migration in some Mediterranean countries and hundreds, perhaps thousands, are shot for food in Oman every spring. The use of pesticides reduces food availability, and the species is sensitive to changing farming and forestry practices.


The European Roller is a stocky bird, the size of a Jackdaw at 29-32 cm in length with a 52-58 cm wingspan, but it is mainly blue with a warm brown back

Rollers often perch prominently on trees, posts, or overhead wires, like giant shrikes, whilst watching for the large insects, small reptiles, rodents, and frogs that they eat.

This species is even more striking in its strong direct flight, with the brilliant blue contrasting with black flight feathers.

Males and females look alike, but the juvenile is a drabber version of the adult.

The display of this bird is a lapwing-like display, with the twists and turns that give this species its English name.

Two European Rollers Holding a Lizard in a Beak
Two European Rollers Holding a Lizard in a Beak

Nesting / Breeding

It nests in an unlined tree or cliff hole, and lays up to six eggs.


Calls / Vocalizations

The call is a harsh crow-like sound. It gives a raucous series of calls when nervous.


Copyright: Wikipedia. This article is licensed under the GNU Free Documentation License. It uses material from … Additional information and photos added by Avianweb.


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Gordon Ramel

Gordon is an ecologist with two degrees from Exeter University. He's also a teacher, a poet and the owner of 1,152 books. Oh - and he wrote this website.

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