The colourful, jackdaw-sized European roller (Coracias garrulus) is breeding in steppe land habitats of Europe and Asia. Rollers are breeding in natural holes, they usually nest in the old cavities of green woodpecker (Picus viridis) and black woodpecker (Dryocopus martius). The species feeds exclusively on animals: its prey consists of Orthoptera, large beetles, amphibians, reptiles and small mammals. It is a long-distance migrant, spending the winter in Africa South of the Equator.
Until 1950s, roller was a common bird species in Hungary, except the mountains and closed forests it was widespread around the whole country. From the 1970s the population started to decline all around Europe due to the loss of proper nesting and feeding habitats, the species even became extinct in Germany, Denmark, Sweden, Finland and the Czech Republic. In Hungary, the breeding population of Transdanubian region completely disappeared and their number drastically declined on all representative habitats, too. However, Hungary is still holding one of the most significant populations in Europe, South Alföld, Kiskunság, Jászság, Heves-plain, Borsodi Mezőség and Tápió-vidék maintains strong populations. The species is listed as strictly protected in Hungary, its theoretical value is 500 000 Forints.
Csongrád local group of MME BirdLife Hungary started the conservation program in the 1980s when they began the installation of nestboxes for roller in the area. It has been followed by ringing and later colour ringing of the species which gave important information about the habitat allegiance and inter-population movements of rollers and we received the first data about the migration routes of the Carpathian Basins breeding population to the African wintering grounds.
The project „Conservation of the European roller in the Carpathian Basin” started in 2014 with the support of the European Union LIFE+ Nature fund. The project ends in 2020, the main goal is to strengthen the European roller population of the Carpathian basin and ensure the long term conservation of the species in the area with the collaboration of Hungary and Romania. Main activities of the project:
- creating nesting sites in the Special Protection Areas of Hungary and Romania
- demonstrative habitat reconstruction on 3 main roller habitat types
- monitoring the result of the habitat reconstruction actions with botanical monitoring, prey analyses and studying the habitat use of individuals tagged with transmitters
- secure long-term conservation of the species with awareness raising, educational actions and „Farmers for Roller” programme
- reveal migration routes, wintering sites and the biggest threats on them with satellite tracking of Rollers.
For more information about the conservation project please visit our website: www.rollerproject.eu.