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European Roller Coracias garrulus

This species has been downlisted to Least Concern.  Although the population is still thought to be declining, the declines are not thought to be sufficiently rapid to warrant listing as Near Threatened. The European population is still thought to be declining but at a less severe rate and the Central Asian population is not thought to be declining significantly. Conservation actions in several countries have contributed to national recoveries.

Taxonomic source(s)
AERC TAC. 2003. AERC TAC Checklist of bird taxa occurring in Western Palearctic region, 15th Draft. Available at: # _the_WP15.xls#.
Cramp, S.; Perrins, C. M. 1977-1994. Handbook of the birds of Europe, the Middle East and Africa. The birds of the western Palearctic. Oxford University Press, Oxford.
del Hoyo, J.; Collar, N. J.; Christie, D. A.; Elliott, A.; Fishpool, L. D. C. 2014. HBW and BirdLife International Illustrated Checklist of the Birds of the World. Barcelona, Spain and Cambridge UK: Lynx Edicions and BirdLife International.

Taxonomic note
The Roller Coracias garrulus is a polytypic species with two subspecies: the nominate C. g. garrulus breeds from Morocco, south-west and south-central Europe and Asia Minor east through north-west Iran to south-west Siberia (Russia); C. g. semenowi, breeds in Iraq and Iran (except northwest where the nominate race occurs) east to Kashmir and north to Turkmenistan, south Kazakhstan and northwest China (west Sinkiang) (Fry & Fry 1999).

Distribution and population
This species occurs as two subspecies: the nominate breeds from Morocco, south-west and south-central Europe and Asia Minor east through north-west Iran to south-west Siberia (Russia); and semenowi, which breeds in Iraq and Iran (except north-west) east to Kashmir and north to Turkmenistan, south Kazakhstan and north-west China (west Sinkiang). The species overwinters in two distinct regions of Africa, from Senegal east to Cameroon and from Ethiopia west to Congo and south to South Africa (del Hoyo et al. 2001). It has a large global population, including an estimated 100,000-220,000 individuals in Europe (50-74% of the global breeding range) (BirdLife International 2004). However, following a moderate decline during 1970-1990 (Tucker and Heath 1994), the species continued to decline by up to 25% across Europe during 1990-2000 (including in key populations in Turkey and European Russia) (BirdLife International 2004). Overall European declines exceeded 30% in three generations (15 years).

The most recent assessment of the European population suggests the decline has slowed to c. 5-20% in three generations (BirdLife International 2015). Populations in northern Europe have undergone severe declines (Estonia: 50-100 pairs in 1998 to no known breeding pairs in 2004 and 0-3 reported for 2008-2012 [A. Kalamees in litt. 2005, BirdLife International 2015], Latvia: several thousand to under 30 pairs in 2004 and 2012 [E. Raèinskis in litt. 2005, BirdLife International 2015], Lithuania: 1,000-2,000 pairs in 1970s to less than 20 pairs in 2004 and 2008-2012 [L. Raudonikis in litt. 2005, BirdLife International 2015]), and in Russia it has now disappeared from the northern part of its range (A. Mischenko in litt. 2005) with 7,000-10,000 pairs reported in its European range (BirdLife International 2015). However, the population in Central Asian is apparently not experiencing significant declines (R. Ayé in litt. 2015).

Population justification
In Europe, the breeding population is estimated to number 75,000-158,000 mature individuals (BirdLife International 2015). The European population is thought to hold around 40% of the global breeding range therefore a very approximate estimate of the global population is 188,000-395,000 mature individuals or 282,000-593,000 individuals. Here placed in the band 100,000-499,999 mature individuals and 200,000-600,000 individuals.

Trend justification
The species was previously thought to be undergoing sharp declines in Europe, however new data compiled for the 2015 European Red List of Birds suggests that the population is declining at a less severe rate, with the breeding population decreasing by c. 5-20% over three generations (16.8 years) (however many national populations in central and eastern Europe are still declining) (BirdLife International 2015). Negative trends are still reported for northern European populations such as Lithuania as well as Latvia, Poland, Belarus and Estonia (L. Raudonikis in litt. 2015). Some southern European populations have also declined: in the past century, the species has gone extinct in Germany, Denmark, Sweden (Snow & Perrins, 1998) and Finland (Avilés et al. 1999), possibly due to habitat loss as a result of agricultural intensification (Snow & Perrins 1998). In Central Europe, extinctions occurred in some areas around 25 years ago with no evidence of recolonization (M. Vogrin in litt. 2015).

It is thought to be relatively common in Tajikistan (D. Ewbank in litt. 2015) and in Central Asia (Afghanistan, Kazakhstan, Krygystan, Tajikistan, Turkmenistan and Uzbekistan) an analysis of observations of this species suggests that a strong or moderate decline is unlikely whilst a weaker decline cannot be excluded due to limitations in the data (R. Ayé in litt. 2015). The species is considered common in Uzbekistan by ornithologists however significant habitat loss has occurred suggesting the species may be declining (R. Kashkarov in litt. 2015). Populations in the Middle East have not apparently exhibited declines. Europe holds approximately 40% of the global breeding range, considering new information from Central Asia which suggests the species has not declined significantly and assuming that populations in the Middle East and north-west Africa have also not declined significantly since they were last assessed, the population is not thought to be undergoing significant declines.

The European Roller breeds throughout temperate, steppe and Mediterranean zones characterized by reliable warm summer weather. It prefers 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 (del Hoyo et al. 2001). In Europe, the species mainly breeds in abandoned Green Woodpecker Picus viridis cavities in white poplar Populus alba, especially in riparian forests, less often in Salix spp., or infrequently in natural cavities of planes Platanus orientalis, walls or sand-banks (Tron et al. 2006, Poole et al. in prep). They mostly forage in agricultural habitats, especially meadows (May and August) and in cereals in June-July. Fallow land is always favoured. Vineyards can be attractive if the soil keeps some vegetation cover (Tron et al. 2006, Poole et al. in prep). Hedgerows (as well as fences and powerlines) are essential perches while looking for prey (Tron et al. 2006, Poole et al. in prep).

Threats include persecution on migration in some Mediterranean countries and hundreds, perhaps thousands, are shot for food in Oman every spring (del Hoyo et al. 2001), and Gujarat, India. 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 (E. Raèinskis in litt. 2005, Kovacs et al. 2008). It is sensitive to loss of hedgerows and riparian forest in Europe which provide essential habitats for perching and nesting.

Conservation and Research Actions Underway
EU Birds Directive Annex I. Bern Convention Appendix II. Bonn Convention Appendix I. An International Species Action Plan is in place (Kovacs et al. 2008). Conservation actions in certain countries have contributed to several national population recoveries (Bulgaria, Spain [Rodríguez et al. 2011], France and Hungary [Kiss et al. 2014]). A number of national monitoring schemes are in place within its range and it has been the focus of targeted study. Species action plans have been developed in Hungary, Latvia, and Andalusia (Spain); similar documents are being drafted in Slovakia and Catalonia (Spain). Working groups present in Austria, Belarus, France, Latvia, Lithuania, Serbia and Slovakia.

Conservation and Research Actions Proposed
Continue monitoring population trends. Determine Turkish, Middle Eastern and Central Asian trends and review its conservation status based on the findings. Tackle specific threats such as hunting. Address threats in Europe relating to the Common Agricultural Policy and integrate appropriate measures into agri-environment schemes.

Related state of the world's birds case studies

Avilés J.M., Sanchez J.M., Sanchez A., Parejo D. 1999. Breeding biology of the Roller Coracias garrulus in farming areas of the southwest Iberian Peninsula. Bird Study 46: 217-223.

BirdLife International. 2004. Birds in Europe: population estimates, trends and conservation status. BirdLife International, Cambridge, U.K.

BirdLife International. 2015. European Red List of Birds. Office for Official Publications of the European Communities, Luxembourg.

del Hoyo, J.; Elliott, A.; Sargatal, J. 2001. Handbook of the Birds of the World, vol. 6: Mousebirds to Hornbills. Lynx Edicions, Barcelona, Spain.

Fry, C. H.; Fry, K. 1999. Kingfishers, bee-eaters, and rollers. Princeton University Press, Princeton.

IUCN. 2015. The IUCN Red List of Threatened Species. Version 2015-4. Available at: (Accessed: 19 November 2015).

Kiss, O., Elek, Z. and Moskát, C. 2014. High breeding performance of European Rollers Coracias garrulus in heterogeneous farmland habitat in southern Hungary. Bird Study 61(4): 496-505.

Kovacs A., Barov B., Orhun C., Gallo-Orsi U. 2008. International Species Action Plan for the European Roller Coracias garrulus garrulus. BirdLife International For the European Commission.

Lemphers, N.C., Tron, F.T. and Evans, D.M. 2007. Comparison of census methodologies for the European roller (Coracias garrulus) in the Vallée des Baux de Provence, France. A Rocha France, Aries-Espénon, France.

Rodríguez, J., Aviles, J.M. and Parejo, D. 2011. The value of nestboxes in the conservation of Eurasian Rollers Coracias garrulus in southern Spain. Ibis 153(4): 735-745.

Snow, D. W.; Perrins, C. M. 1998. The birds of the Western Palearctic: concise editions. Oxford University Press, Oxford, U.K.

Tron, F. 2006. The European Roller as a flagship species for a local stakeholders-based approach of Mediterranean farmland conservation. . Abstract for the 1st European Congress of Conservation Biology 'Diversity for Europe'.

Tucker, G.M. and Heath, M.F. 1994. Birds in Europe: their conservation status. BirdLife International, Cambridge, U.K.

Further web sources of information
Detailed regional assessment and species account from the European Red List of Birds (BirdLife International, 2015)

Detailed species account from Birds in Europe: population estimates, trends and conservation status (BirdLife International 2004)

Explore HBW Alive for further information on this species

Search for photos and videos, and hear sounds of this species from the Internet Bird Collection

Text account compilers
Ashpole, J, Bird, J., Butchart, S., Ekstrom, J. & Harding, M.

Ayé, R., Ewbank, D., Hellicar, M., Kalamees, A., Kashkarov, R., Mischenko, A., Petkov, N., Racinskis, E., Raudonikis, L., Tiwari, J., Tron, F., Vogrin, M., Perlman, Y., Mitropolskiy, O., Roth, T. & Schweizer, M.

IUCN Red List evaluators
Symes, A.

Recommended citation
BirdLife International (2015) Species factsheet: Coracias garrulus. Downloaded from on 01/12/2015. Recommended citation for factsheets for more than one species: BirdLife International (2015) IUCN Red List for birds. Downloaded from on 01/12/2015.

This information is based upon, and updates, the information published in BirdLife International (2000) Threatened birds of the world. Barcelona and Cambridge, UK: Lynx Edicions and BirdLife International, BirdLife International (2004) Threatened birds of the world 2004 CD-ROM and BirdLife International (2008) Threatened birds of the world 2008 CD-ROM. These sources provide the information for species accounts for the birds on the IUCN Red List.

To provide new information to update this factsheet or to correct any errors, please email BirdLife

To contribute to discussions on the evaluation of the IUCN Red List status of Globally Threatened Birds, please visit BirdLife's Globally Threatened Bird Forums.

Additional resources for this species

ARKive species - European roller (Coracias garrulus) 0

Key facts
Current IUCN Red List category Least Concern
Family Coraciidae (Rollers)
Species name author Linnaeus, 1758
Population size 100000-499999 mature individuals
Population trend Decreasing
Distribution size (breeding/resident) 11,400,000 km2
Country endemic? No
Links to further information
- Additional Information on this species
- 2015 European Red List assessment