European Roller Coracias garrulus


Justification of Red List Category
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.

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.

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).


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 actions

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.


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

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

Recommended citation
BirdLife International (2019) Species factsheet: Coracias garrulus. Downloaded from on 15/11/2019. Recommended citation for factsheets for more than one species: BirdLife International (2019) IUCN Red List for birds. Downloaded from on 15/11/2019.