Archived 2015 topics: European Roller (Coracias garrulus) – downlist from Near Threatened to Least Concern?

European Roller Coracias garrulus breeds in NW Africa, SW, SC, SE and E Europe, and in the Middle East, Arabia and C Asia to SW Siberia, wintering in sub-Saharan Africa (Fry et al. 2014). It is currently listed as Near Threatened, because when last assessed it was considered to have undergone a moderately rapid population decline.

Globally, it has an extremely large range in both the breeding season (>11 million km2) and in winter (>11 million km2), and hence does not approach the thresholds for Vulnerable under the range size criteria (B and D2). Its population size is also very large (with 75,000–158,000 mature individuals in Europe alone; BirdLife International 2015), and hence does not approach the thresholds for Vulnerable under the population size criteria (C and D1). Therefore, the only potentially relevant criterion is A, which relates to reductions in population size. Until recently, the population was thought to be declining moderately rapidly, at a rate approaching the threshold for listing as Vulnerable under criterion A (at least a 30% decline over ten years or three generations, whichever is longer), based largely on trend data collated from across its European range for the period 1990–2000 (BirdLife International 2004).

New data collated from across Europe for the European Red List of Birds (BirdLife International 2015) suggest that the species is no longer declining so steeply overall (although many national populations in C and E Europe are still declining). A combination of official data reported by 27 EU Member States to the European Commission under Article 12 of the EU Birds Directive and comparable data from other European countries, provided by BirdLife Partners and other leading national ornithologists, suggests that the European breeding population has probably declined overall by only c. 5–20% over the last three generations (16.8 years, based on a generation length estimated by BirdLife to be 5.6 years). Consequently, the species is now classified as Least Concern at European level (BirdLife International 2015).

Conservation action to implement the recommendations in the species action plan (Kovacs et al. 2008) has contributed to recoveries in several countries (Bulgaria, Spain, France and Hungary – see e.g. Kiss et al. 2014, Rodriguez et al. 2011), but it is still declining overall in Europe and far from secure, with many national populations highly depleted, some on the brink of extinction and others already nationally extinct.

Based on its distribution, Europe holds around 40% of the global breeding range, with the remainder in Central Asia, the Middle East and NW Africa. When last assessed, there was no evidence of significant declines in these regions, so the species’ global status was based largely on the decline in Europe. Now that rate of decline in Europe has slowed, the information available implies that globally the species is not declining sufficiently rapidly to be listed as Near Threatened, and should be reclassified as Least Concern.

Comments on this proposal are welcome, along with any data regarding the recent trend of its breeding population in Central Asia, the Middle East and NW Africa, and of its wintering population in Africa, along with any additional information about the threats currently affecting this species across its range.


BirdLife International (2004) Birds in Europe: population estimates, trends and conservation status. Cambridge, UK: BirdLife International (Conservation Series No. 12).

BirdLife International (2015) European Red List of Birds. Luxembourg: Office for Official Publications of the European Communities.

Fry, H., Boesman, P. & Kirwan, G.M. (2014). European Roller (Coracias garrulus). In: del Hoyo, J., Elliott, A., Sargatal, J., Christie, D.A. & de Juana, E. (eds.) (2014). Handbook of the Birds of the World Alive. Lynx Edicions, Barcelona.

Kiss, O., Elek, Z., & Moskát, C. (2014). High breeding performance of European Rollers Coracias garrulus in heterogeneous farmland habitat in southern Hungary. Bird Study, 61(4), 496-505.

Kovacs, A., Barov, B., Orhun, C. & Gallo-Orsi, U. (2008) International Species Action Plan for the European Roller Coracias garrulus garrulus.

Rodriguez, J., Aviles, J. M., & Parejo, D. (2011). The value of nestboxes in the conservation of Eurasian Rollers Coracias garrulus in southern Spain. Ibis, 153(4), 735-745.


EDIT 09/09/15:

The attached PDF shows the map from Kazakhstan referred to by Raffael Ayé in his post of 07 September – please see this for further details.

Coracias garrulus Ayé 2015

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10 Responses to Archived 2015 topics: European Roller (Coracias garrulus) – downlist from Near Threatened to Least Concern?

  1. Andy Symes (BirdLife) says:

    Milan Vogrin provided the following comment (minor edits for clarity):

    I think that situation in Central Europe is quite the same as with Falco naummani – in some regions the species became extinct about 25 years ago and there is no evidence of recolonization (the main threat is of course intensive farming). There are regions with extinction but only in some parts there are some attempts of new breeding.

  2. Martin Hellicar says:

    In Cyprus, which has a significant breeding population of Roller, there has been a moderate decline (significance level P=0.01 based on TRIM analysis) over the period 2006-14 in farmland sites (data from 55 sites across the island). Index suggests a reduction of 30-50% in numbers breeding between 2006-14.

  3. Andy Symes (BirdLife) says:

    Yoav Perlman and colleagues at Israel Ornithological Center / Society for the Protection of Nature in Israel have provided a summary of the status of European Roller in Israel – see summary copied here:

    There is no monitoring data on this species, but there are several local indications demonstrating local declines in breeding numbers. No data on migratory populations.

  4. Species decreasing long-term (since 1996) trend is very high (exceeding 95%), the short-term (last decade) trend is also dramatic (80-90%) in Lithuania with current populastion of 10-15 pairs. The sort-term negative trend can be related with intensification of the agriculture after the joining EU and intensification of the forest logging along the agricultural fields. However, not big changes of the species breeding habitats are observed comparing with 1980-ies when Lithuanian breeding population was several thousands pairs or situation in 1996 with several hundreds pairs. According to our opinion, the main problems are not in the breeding grounds, but somewhere on the migration or in wintering areas.
    Because of really negative trend in Lithuania and neighbouring countries (similar trends in Latvia, Poland Belarus, extinct in Estonia), I suggest to leave NT status despite positive trends in south Europe.

  5. Andy Symes (BirdLife) says:

    Preliminary proposals

    Based on available information, our preliminary proposal for the 2015 Red List would be to pend the decision on European Roller and keep this discussion open until 2016, while leaving the current Red List category unchanged in the 2015 update.

    Further information from Central Asia and the Middle East is needed before the global status can be resolved.

    There is now a period for further comments until the final deadline of 31 August, after which recommended categorisations will be put forward to IUCN.

    The final Red List categories will be published on the BirdLife website in late October and on the IUCN website in November, following further checking of information relevant to the assessments by both BirdLife and IUCN.

  6. David Ewbank says:

    I spent the year 2006/07 working in Dushanbe. I saw eurasian roller as follows: A summer visitor to the lowlands as far east as Langar. LL: 26 May 2007 Dushanbe to Kulob 2 uplands TP hawking. 27 May 2007 Kulyob /Dushanbe 20 TP uplands. 31 May 2007 Dushanbe/Khorog 2 1 June 2007 Rusham 2. 12 June 2007 Langar one.
    the standard work on Tajiksytan birds is Abdusalyamov, A.J. 1971/77. [Fauna Tadjik Soviet Socialist Republic]. Vol XIX. Institute of Zoology and Parasithology of the Academy of Sciences of the Tajik SSR. Dushanbe: Donish. (in Russian). 3 vols.
    there is a copy in the BirdLife Int library in Girton (donated by me) – my Russian is not up to comparing the two. but it certainly seems common enough inn the east of the country nowadays.

  7. Raffael Ayé says:

    Tobias Roth, Manuel Schweizer, Roman Kashkarov, Oleg Mitropolskiy and myself have built up a database of bird records from Central Asia (AFG, KAZ, KGZ, TJK, TKM, UZB). While the below considerations heavily rely on their work and specifically on Tobias’s calculations, my four colleagues may or may not agree with the interpretations and conclusions.

    We have taken all observations (n=10’326) from the last ten years (1st Jan 2006 up to today) and then defined the previous period with the same number (10’326) of observations. That period is 1962 to 2005 (with a bias towards recent years).

    For each period, Tobias plotted all 10’326 observations on a map and added the observations of the target species in red. Plotting all 10’326 observations gives an idea, where ornithologists who provided data for our database were active. And the red crosses give an idea of the distribution of the target species. The comparison of the two maps might give hints to changes in the distribution.

    We did this for Black-bellied Sandgrouse, European Turtle-Dove and European Roller.

    The maps need to be interpreted with a lot of caution. There are numerous data sources included in the database and there may be numerous unknown factors that influence the probability of encountering the three species. To give just one example, we do not know, whether all observers diligently recorded observations of these relatively common species.

    For both Black-bellied Sandgrouse and European Roller, there are changes in the “apparent distribution” between the two periods. Most changes look like they could be caused by data availability (no or very limited data from a specific region, not only target species missing). If anything, these four maps rather look like these two species had a wider distribution in the last ten years than in the previous period. However, this cannot be concluded with any certainty.

    For the European Turtle-Dove, the two maps might be consistent with a range loss or with a lower encounter probability in the second period. Notably, extensive areas within the breeding range of the species in Kazakhstan were visited by ornithologists, but yielded only very few data points in the last ten years.

    Additionally, we calculated the number of records (observations) and the mean number of individuals per record (“flock size”) of each of the three species for each of the two periods. Given that the total number of records is the same for both periods (10’326), a naive assumption and my null hypothesis is that the number of records and the “flock size” should be similar in both periods.

    B-b Sandgrouse: 29 and 57 records; 30.5 and 42.6 ind/record.
    European Roller: 73 and 69 records; 7.0 and 6.2 ind/record.
    Eur. Turtle-Dove: 34 and 18 records; 5.4 and 4.2 ind/record.

    Again, these numbers should be interpreted with caution. The same factors as mentioned above, could also play a role here. Moreover, some observers just indicate a species as “present”, which is translated as “minimum of 1 ind.” in our database and will be calculated as one individual.

    The numbers look like they might suggest an increase in numbers of Black-bellied Sandgrouse and rather constant numbers of European Rollers. And the numbers look suggestive of a decrease of European Turtle-Dove.

    Taken together, the maps and the numbers fail to show evidence of a decline for Black-bellied Sandgrouse and European Roller. I think that, a strong or moderate decline of these two species is unlikely, while a weaker decline cannot be excluded due to limitations in our data and the simplistic approach. However, our limited data is suggestive of a decline of European Turtle-Dove in Central Asia over the last 2 to 4 decades. And this decline could possibly be moderate or even strong according to the data available.

    This is not rocket science. Given the heterogeneous data sources, we cannot be certain about these conclusions and I would be very happy to hear from ornithologists in the region whether their personal observations agree with these thoughts or not.

    Best regards,


  8. Ian Burfield (BirdLife) says:

    Roman Kashkarov (Executive Director, Uzbekistan Society for the Protection of Birds) has provided the following information, which Raffael Ayé has kindly translated from Russian into English:

    All our ornithologists believe this species is common. But when we were looking for and have described our IBAs, we found very few places where at least 60 pairs are nesting (Criterion A1). Now in the whole area of the plain and foothills of Uzbekistan intensive road construction is going on, development of so far undeveloped land. Most of the cliffs where European Roller is nesting, very vulnerable and destroyed. Some cliffs also disappeared in the last 50 years due to erosion, which is caused by the degradation of pastures. Furthermore a significant part of the cliffs were “occupied” by Mynahs. So I think that in Uzbekistan European Roller is endangered because of habitat reduction and I will lobby for its inclusion in the national Red Data Book.

  9. Andy Symes (BirdLife) says:

    Recommended categorisation to be put forward to IUCN

    Based on further information received, we have been able to change the preliminary proposal and revise the recommended classification on the 2015 Red List to Least Concern.

    The final categorisation will be published on the BirdLife website in late October and on the IUCN website in November, following further checking of information relevant to the assessment by BirdLife and IUCN.

  10. Bela Tokody says:

    Although, Hungarian population of European Roller seems to be stable nowadays, but this is the result of huge direct conservation activity of BirdLife Hungary and National Parks started from the 1980’s. The majority of our population breeds artificial nest-boxes; therefore we still do not have a long-term solution for ensure breeding places.
    We estimate the Hungarian population about 1000 pairs of Rollers. According to a monitoring in 2010, there are 400-430 pairs of Roller breed on the South-East Hungary. Csongrad county, which is one of the two counties of that region, had 254 pairs Rollers. 191 pairs bred in artificial nest boxes, what is 75% of the county population. (Kiss Orsolya & Tokody Béla (2010) Roller (Coracias garrulus) population in Southern Hungary Heliaca 8. évf. 108-11).
    Based on Roller territory mapping in Southern Hungary in 2010 (Kiss Orsolya & Tokody Béla (2010) Roller (Coracias garrulus) population in Southern Hungary Heliaca 8. évf. 108-11) the Kiskunság region has the biggest population which breeds in natural hallows (max. 200 pairs). Therefore, we estimate that about 80% of the Hungarian population depends on artificial nesting sites.
    The usage of nest-boxes undoubtedly helped us to stop the negative trend and even increase the population size, however the Hungarian population is not secured, it is highly depending on continuous provision of nest-boxes, because without this activity the population is going to decrease again. According to our opinion, reclassification of European Rollers as Least Concern may presume better conservation status than it really is in Hungary.

    Bela Tokody
    Coordinator of MME Roller Life+
    Magyar Madártani Egyesület / BirdLife Hungary

    Orsolya Kiss
    Assistant lecturer
    Universtiy of Szeged
    Faculty of Agriculture
    Institute of Animal Science and Wildlife Management

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