European Roller. Photo: Markus Varesvuo



European protected bird species, included in the Annex I of the European Union Birds Directive. Breeds in the west of Eurasia and North Africa, winters in Africa south of the Sahara.


European Roller is a medium sized bright and stocky southern bird, found in dry, warm and open landscapes with sparcely growing trees. Once a common bird in Latvia, at present European Roller is on the brink of extinction in our and the neighboring countries. While its call is a loud, crow-like sound, European Roller is not a corvid. In Latvia its closest relatives are Common Kingfisher and European Bee-eater.

Large insects - beetles and grasshoppers are the main diet of the European Roller. Rollers often perch on trees watching for the insects and dive to capture them or catch insects in the flight.

Tree cavities or nest-boxes serve as the nesting sites for the Rollers. They can not carve a cavity themselves, therefore European Rollers use abandoned Woodpecker nests. European Roller lays up to six eggs, the average survival is 2-4 juveniles.

"Rolling" flight. To ward off the predators and rivals and to to attract the attention of the opposite sex, European Rollers loudly screech and make rapid flights. During these flights bird's wings revolve around the body axis to 270 degrees back and forth several times per second. It has given this species its English name. 

Where European Rollers are found ?
In Latvia they are found only in the forests located in the vicinity of the capital Riga - in the protected landscape area "Adazi" and nature reserve "Garkalne forests". There are 25 pairs of European Rollers breeding in Latvia at the moment. In the middle of the last century several thousands of these birds were found in our country. Their numbers have sharply decreased.

Why these birds disappear?
Conservative choice of nesting and feeding sites: researchers cosider European Roller an ancient and very conservative bird. During millions of years, Rollers have evolved to live in an environment where open fields, which serve as insect hunting sites, interchange with clumps of trees, where hollow trees for nesting can be found. Nowadays such landscapes in Europe are increasingly replaced by large open fields or dense commercial forests. Such conditions are not suitable for European Rollers.
Hunting: thousands of European Rollers die during migration due to the bird hunting in Asia and the Mediterranean.