Mariusz Szyszka - Fotografia Przyrodnicza
European Roller
European Roller - Coracias garrulus

"common everywhere" wrote about European roller polish ornithologist Wladyslaw Taczanowski in his book "National Birds" in 1882. And even 50 years ago another polish ornithologist Jan Sokolowski in "Birds of the polish lands" mentioned "fairly common in the east, and even travelling by train already close to Warsaw, you can see the rollers sitting on telephone wires"

At the beginning of 80-s, more than 1.000 of rollers nested in Poland, and in the mid 80-s the population reduced to 500-600 of birds. The sharp decline occured in  the last 20-30 years. In 1998 population was estimated at 112-133 pairs, and 5 years ago at 50-60 pairs. Today only about 35-40 pairs of rollers nest in Poland.
European roller in Poland is on the verge of extincion, and in fact already exeeds it.

So what therefore happened that this beautifull bird that became extinct soon?

The causes of extinction of the rollers are not fully known, but knowing the biology and habits of this bird, it is very easy to identify the most important of them
The European roller is associated with agricultural landscape. Mosaic of open spaces, meadows, pastures, small fields and wastlands is its natural habitat
It avoids forests, preffering open areas most often with clumps of old trees and few trees growing amoung the meadows and balks

Thus the landscape changes in agricultural lands, disapperances of meadows and pastures, moving away from intensive farming and natural grazing cattle is one of the main causes of extinction of the roller
An equally important reason is shortage of breeding places. Widespread cutting of old hollow trees makes the rollers do not have places to nest.
Its habitat disappears, breeding places disapear, but its food also disappears.

The main food of the bird are large insects: beetles and Orthoptera, rarely small rodents and amphibians. They also are less and less.
The meadows overgrow, balks dissapear. There are less places, where rollers can hunt. They are hunting from so called lookouts,  the places on certain height, from which birds look out for prey on the ground.
Sometimes lack of these places: wires, bars or wooden fences prevent hunting. But sometimes there are favorable places but rollers can not hunt because they do not see the prey. Because of overgrown meadows.
If we add to this pouching, predation of other animals and changing of weather conditions (on which birds are very sentitive) - the situation does not look optimistic.
The great havoc among the rollers make the annual trek to wintering places in Africa. Rollers are massively killed during flights in the Mediterranean.
Even if our rollers are able to find suitable habitat and suitable nest-hole and succesfully raise the young, but the risk that they will not return to us next year is very high.
European rollers are very conservative birds. There are many species which can adapt to changing conditions. And populations of these birds managed to defend against extinction. European roller unfortunately is not one of them. When their habitat is destroyed and breeding places dissapear - the bird also dissaperar forever.

So can we help the rollers today?
We can certainly try to do so.
The only question is wheather is it too late, and the statistics say so.

Since 2005 as part of "Operation roller" in southern-east of Poland in Subcarpathia Region, we monitor rollers. We trying to help them in many ways. But being with them "eye to eye" we can clearly see how they dissapear from year to year

Will our rollers survive the journey and return in 2016?
It  turns out in May.
We hope they will.

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