The European Roller is a member of the roller family of birds. They have a large vibrantly colored head, neck and breast area. Their upper sections are a rich brownish red color, with wings of a luminous blue and distinct black tip. Their top tail feathers are bluish green while below, they have contrasting darker shade. They are a stocky bird about the size of a crow. When anxious or worried they make a harsh series of noises similar to the severe hostile sound made by the crow. The male European roller exhibits spectacular tumbling displays of varied twists and turns as it dives and rolls, offering incredible displays of its colored wings while flying, giving the species its unusual English name.
There are two different species of the European Roller the Caracas Garrulous Semenowi (which is a little darker in coloring) and the Caracas Garrulous Nominate. The Caracas Garrulous breeds in Europe and is the only breed of rollers to do so. They have a very extensive range of about 6000 miles, and can be found as far North in Africa as Morocco, east to Tunisia. They exist in south-central Europe, and Asia Minor, whilst extending east as far Northwestern Iran and Northeast to Siberia.
The Caracas Garrulous Semenowi breeds in Southern Iraq and travels east to Kashmir and north to Turkmenistan. They then travel south to Kazakhstan and northwest China and onto west Kinjiang, these long-distance migrant's winter in southern sultry Africa from Ethiopia's west to Congo as well as south to Kenya, Tanzania and South Africa. Some migrate to sub-Saharan Africa through India, which has been documented by an impact with aircraft over the Arabian Sea. One of Africa's most spectacular sights are in April when over one hundred thousand rollers take to the air and begin their journey north in a narrow procession along the coast from Tanzania to Somalia.
The European Roller prefers warm and sunny lowlands for breeding with patches of an Oak Forest or mature pines with a heathery bush. They also can be found in orchards, river valleys and leafy trees. In its African winter environment, it normally can be found in the dry wooded savanna and bushy plains where it can be found nesting in tree holes made by the European Green Woodpecker. Other nesting areas can be found in rock formations, abandoned buildings, cliff hangings or riverbanks.
The monogamous European Roller defends its territory with its mate protecting a clutch of up to seven chicks. They are incubated for approximately nineteen days, for the most part, by the female. The European Roller perches on top of trees, posts or overhead wires to watch for potential prey such as frogs, small reptiles, rodents, snakes, grasshoppers, crickets, caterpillars, spiders, or small injured birds.
The decline in the species has been severe across Europe. Luckily there has been no noted confirmation of any decline in their population in Central Asia. There are many reasons for these declines, the primary cause is the use pesticides which kill their food supply. Many are shot down during their migration in a few of the Mediterranean countries. The rollers are easy targets while resting in the lower trees, while exhausted from their long journey. In Oman each spring thousands of these magnificent birds are shot for food.