European Roller Coracias garrulus


Justification of Red List Category
This species is assessed as Least Concern. The population size and range are large and do not approach the thresholds for listing as Vulnerable and, although the population is still believed 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 suffering significant declines. 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. The species is 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 than feared, with the breeding population decreasing by c. 5-20% over three generations (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). Also many national populations in central and eastern Europe are in decline (BirdLife International 2015). Some southern European populations have also declined: in the past century, the species has gone extinct in Germany, Denmark, Sweden (Snow and Perrins 1998) and Finland (Avilés et al. 1999), possibly due to habitat loss as a result of agricultural intensification (Snow and Perrins 1998). In Central Europe, extinctions occurred in some areas around 25 years ago with no evidence of recolonization (M. Vogrin in litt. 2015).
The species 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 the species in these countries 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; 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. 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 global population is not thought to be undergoing significant declines.

Distribution and population

This species occurs as two subspecies. The nominate subspecies breeds from Morocco, south-west and south-central Europe and Asia Minor east through north-west Iran to south-west Siberia (Russia). Subspecies semenowi 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, declines in Europe 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. Racinskis 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 2006). 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 2006). Hedgerows (as well as fences and powerlines) are essential perches while looking for prey (Tron 2006).


Threats include persecution on migration in some Mediterranean countries and hundreds, perhaps thousands, are shot for food in Oman and India (del Hoyo et al. 2001). 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. Racinskis 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. An international action plan, the Flyway Action Plan for the European Roller Coracias garrulus, was published in 2017. 

Conservation and Research Actions Proposed

The Flyway Action Plan for the European Roller Coracias garrulus, which was prepared in 2017, provides a detailed assessment of the conservation and research actions necessary in the next decade to conserve the European Roller across its natural range (Tokody et al. 2017). Investigate the habitat requirements of this species and the migration route it uses to reach its wintering grounds. Assess threats facing the species, involving collaboration between European and African research institutes, as well as how climate change will impact the species. Conserve and manage existing habitat. Promote native tree planting to reduce deforestation and encourage agro-environmental schemes and biodiversity-friendly farming. Reduce illegal killing and trapping of birds. Put in place measures to reduce the accidental killing of migrating birds by wind farms and electricity infrastructure. Ensure the legal protection of the European Roller across its range states.


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

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

Recommended citation
BirdLife International (2022) Species factsheet: Coracias garrulus. Downloaded from on 22/05/2022. Recommended citation for factsheets for more than one species: BirdLife International (2022) IUCN Red List for birds. Downloaded from on 22/05/2022.