European roller

Coracias garrulus

TAXONOMY

Coracias garrulus Linnaeus, 1758, Sweden. Two subspecies. OTHER COMMON NAMES

French: Rollier d'Europe; German: Blauracke; Spanish: Carraca Europea.

PHYSICAL CHARACTERISTICS

12.5 in (32 cm); 0.24-0.4 lb (110-190 g). Large roller with no tail-streamers. Head, neck, and underparts light blue; upper-parts rufous-brown.

DISTRIBUTION

C. g. garrulus breeds northwest Africa, central and southern Europe to northwest Iran and southwest Siberia; C. g. semenowi breeds Middle East to northwest India and southwest China; all winter in sub-Saharan Africa.

HABITAT

Lowlands in open woodlands, wooded grasslands, cultivated fields, urban parks, or gardens.

BEHAVIOR

Seasonal migrant. Noisy, conspicuous in breeding territory; quiet, lethargic at wintering sites. Found in pairs when breeding, but groups or loose flocks on long-distance migration. Active on fine warm days, less active in rain.

FEEDING ECOLOGY AND DIET

Hunts from vantage perch, taking mainly large insects on ground. Prey struck repeatedly against ground or perch before swallowing; regurgitates undigested remains in pellets.

REPRODUCTIVE BIOLOGY

Monogamous; pairs vigorously defend nest. Spectacular rolling flight features in courtship display. Breeds May-July, laying

4-5 white eggs in a tree hollow, crevice in a rock face, or a hole in the wall of building. Incubation, mainly by female, 17-19 days; chicks fed by both parents, fledging at 25-30 days.

CONSERVATION STATUS

Not threatened. Generally common; in 1990s estimated 20,000 pairs in Europe; in 1970s estimated 2-3 million birds wintering in eastern Africa.

SIGNIFICANCE TO HUMANS

Admired because of beauty; beneficial as destroyer of insect pests; hunted for food, sport, and taxidermy. ♦

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