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European roller

   ›      ›   European roller - Coracias garrulus.

The European roller (Coracias garrulus) is a near passerine bird belonging to the family of rollers, Coraciidae.

These species of rollers are distributed in Northwest India, Pakistan, West Asia, Central Asia, Europe, Northwest and Sub-Saharan Africa and Middle East. The rollers perform rolling aerial acrobatics with twists and turns during courtship or territorial flights, hence the name. There are two recognized subspecies of the European roller.

European roller - Overview

  • Scientific name: Coracias garrulus
  • Species author: Linnaeus, 1758
  • Synonyms: Coracias Garrulus Linnaeus, 1758
  • Family: Coraciidae › Coraciiformes › Aves › Chordata › Animalia
  • Common Name: European roller
  • Other languages: Chinese: 蓝胸佛法僧, French: Rollier d’Europe, German: Blauracke, Spanish: Carraca europea, Russian: Сизоворонка, Japanese: ニシブッポウソウ, Arabic: شقراق
  • Other names: Blue Roller, Common Roller, Eurasian Roller,
  • Distribution: northwest India, Pakistan, West Asia, Central Asia, Europe, Northwest and Sub-Saharan Africa, Middle East
  • Diet and feeding habits: grasshoppers, beetles, mantises, moths, centipedes, millipedes, crickets, small lizards, small rodents, frogs
  • IUCN status listing: Least Concern (LC)
Coracias garrulus is closely related to C. caudatus ( lilac-breasted roller) and C. abyssinicus (Abyssinian roller). The two recognized subspecies of European roller are: C. g. garrulus Linnaeus, 1758 and C. g. semenowi Loudon & Tschusi, 1902.

Appearance, physical description and identification

The European roller (Coracias garrulus) is a medium-sized bird (the size of a crow) measuring about 29–32 cm in length and weighing 130 to 160 grams. The wingspan is 52 to 58 cm. Its back is orange brown. Rest of the body plumage is light to bright blue contrasting with black flight feathers. Juveniles have paler plumage.


The bill is steel gray and the irises are black. The scaly legs and toes are pale brown. The two outer front toes are connected, while the inner toe is free. Their call is a harsh crow-like sound. When disturbed or threatened they make series of disturbingly harsh calls.
Indian birds - Picture of European roller - Coracias garrulus
Birds of India - Image of European roller - Coracias garrulus by Christian Svane (csv)
Birds of India - European roller - Coracias garrulus
Indian birds - Picture of European roller - Coracias garrulus
Indian birds - Picture of European roller - Coracias garrulus
Birds of India - European roller - Coracias garrulus

Origin, geographical range and distribution

The European roller is distributed in Northwest India, Pakistan, West Asia, Central Asia, Europe, Northwest and Sub-Saharan Africa and Middle East. The subspecies C. g. semenowi are distributed in Iraq, southern Iran, North Pakistan, northwest India, Turkmenistan, south Kazakhstan and northwest China. These subspecies winter in East Africa.

The European roller subspecies C. g. garrulus Linnaeus is distributed in Northwest Africa (Morocco), Southwest and south-central Europe, Georgia, Armenia, Azerbaijan, Syria, Iraq, north-west Iran and south-west Russia. These European roller subspecies are long-distance migrants and they winter in southern Africa.

The Important Bird and Biodiversity Areas (IBA) of European roller are in over 150 identified areas spread over Austria, Belarus, Bulgaria, Cyprus, France, Hungary, Italy, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Latvia, Lithuania, Macedonia, Poland, Portugal, Romania, Russia, Serbia, Slovakia, Spain, Tajikistan, Turkmenistan, Ukraine and Kenya.

Ecosystem and habitat

These European roller species are not forest dependent. They inhabit various ecosystems. They prefer warm, sunny lowlands and avoid treeless plains. However, they are found in highlands with elevations up to 1,000 meters in Europe and up to 2,000 meters in Morocco. They occur in pine and oak woodlands with open areas. They occur in wooded areas near farmlands, orchards, plantations and also in dry open land with trees.

Diet and feeding habits

The diet of the European roller is mostly insects like grasshoppers, beetles, mantises, crickets, moths, cicadas and locust. They also feed on small lizards, frogs, small mammals and nestlings of other birds. They sit on a perch and wait, watch and hunt their prey. They sweep down on the prey and carry it back in the beak to a perch for dismembering and eating.

Reproduction and breeding habits

The breeding season of these European roller species is from May to July. On arrival at the breeding grounds after wintering, the male establishes territory with rolling and diving aerial display which is typical of rollers. These birds are monogamous. They nest in tree holes and rock crevices and lay up to six eggs in the unlined nest.

Migration and movement patterns

These European roller species are highly migratory birds. Post breeding dispersal of juveniles takes place. They may make local movements for feeding and breeding. They make long distance migration, moving to east and south Africa for wintering from their breeding grounds in Europe, Asia and north Africa.


Conservation status and concerns

The global population size of the European roller is estimated to number about 200,000 to 600,000 individual birds. The overall population size is considered to be under slow decline. The migrating European rollers are hunted and killed in thousands in around the Mediterranean for food, especially in Oman. There is considerable breeding habitat loss. Their generation length is 5.6 years. These roller species have large range and population.

The European roller does not approach the thresholds for being Vulnerable either under the range size criterion or under the population trend criterion or under the population size criterion. The IUCN (International Union for Conservation of Nature) has categorized and evaluated the European roller (Coracias garrulus) and has listed it as of "Least Concern".

Taxonomy and scientific classification of Coracias garrulus
Kingdom:Animalia
Phylum:Chordata
Class:Aves
Order:Coraciiformes
Family:Coraciidae
Subfamily:-
Genus:Coracias
Species:C. garrulus
Binomial name:Coracias garrulus
IUCN status listing:
Least Concern
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1.Image source: https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:European_roller.jpg
Image author: Christian Svane (csv) | License: CC-By-SA-2.5
2.Image source: https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:European_Roller.JPG
Image author: Gouldingken | License: CC BY 3.0
3.Image source: https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:ZA-KNP-blauracke.jpg
Image author: Bgabel at wikivoyage shared | License: CC BY-SA 3.0
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