European Roller / Coracias garrulus / شقراق أوروبي

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Status: Uncommon

Systematic (order, family): Coraciiformes, Coraciidae

Description: An impressively brightly coloured blue bird that lives up its name by performing display flights whilst twisting as it descends.

Distribution in the country and worldwide: Rollers occur in Palestine on passage and as a breeding bird. It is especially common along the Jordan Valley. The population extends from north-west Africa and Western Europe right through to Eastern Europe, Turkey, Iran to the high latitude of central Asia.

Conservation status: Least Concern

Habitat: Breeds in dry, warm, open country with scattered trees, copses and open woods where there is plenty of insect prey.

Identification (how does it look like): Rollers are about the same size as jackdaws. With its bright blue head and under body and a deep chestnut back, it truly is a stunning bird. It has a strong, hooked black beak. In flight the blue is even more impressive, edged with black primaries and secondaries on the upper side and a deep blue on the underside. Juveniles are a duller version of the adults.

Behaviour: A highly voracious bird that will take anything from small insects to snakes, looking for them from exposed perches and wires.

Breeding/mating (season, how and where): In Palestine, Rollers arrive on breeding grounds in late march-early April and leave again in July -early August. Nest is usually in a deep hole in a wall (or existing bee-eater or kingfisher nests). 4-5 white eggs are laid with the chicks fledging after 26-28 days of hatching.

Weight and size: Body length: 29-32cm Wing span 52-57cm Weight: 105-146g

Threats and hazards: Pesticides have had a large impact on the Roller population causing secondary poisoning and in reduction in prey numbers. Habitat loss and destruction also has a large impact on populations. In the early 1950’s several thousand pairs of Rollers were breeding. Unfortunately, this was recently estimated to be between 500-1000 pairs and this number is still declining.

Similar species not to be confuse with: Can look like a dove when sitting on wires but with good views it is unmistakable.

Cool facts: The scientific name “Coracias garrulus” means “shrieker like a crow” given because of its crow like calls.