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The stunning blue plumage of the European Roller shines at l’Empordà

The Endesa CORACIAS project, which is part of our Biodiversity Conservation Plan, promotes the conservation of birds like the European roller.

European Roller with an integrated gps

During the summer months, the European Roller covers the Mediterranean countries and part of eastern Europe with a beautiful range of blues: its blue plumage, typical of the family of tropical and subtropical birds to which it belongs, stands out for its beauty and spectacular colour. The birds spend the winter months hibernating in Sub-Saharan Africa, but summer is the breeding period, which is why they look for slightly cooler areas in northern latitudes.

But the population of European Roller (Coracias garrulus) is declining worldwide, mainly through the drop in natural cavities in which to nest and agricultural intensification. Given this situation, at Endesa we saw the need to contribute to the conservation of this kind of birds in a specific way for this species. Since 2000, through Endesa Distribución, we have been installing artificial nest boxes, mainly on electricity pylons that cut across open rural areas. This task fully settled forms part of our Biodiversity Conservation Plan.

Our project focuses on the Parque Natural dels Aiguamolls de l‘Empordà (PNAE), a natural park that is home to one of the most important nesting areas for the European Roller in Spain. In this park, the Associació d'Amics del Parc Natural dels Aiguamolls de l'Empordà, uses our support to carry out the field work and management of the nest boxes for the conservation of the birds.

The project’s good progress has made it possible also to extend its study area to the Montgrí, Medes Islands and Baix Ter Natural Park (PNMMBT). This entailed a great leap forward in connecting the meta-populations of the European ratchet bird, thanks to the provision of nests between the two parks, thus being able to reinforce and promote their genetic exchange in the reproductive population of ratchet birds in the Empordà. The main objective of this project, which started two years ago, as far as this species is concerned, is to take advantage of the positive impact of the presence of distribution lines in the two parks and their surroundings.

Thanks to initiatives like these, in recent years, the level of conservation of the species has improved in Europe, going from being an endangered species, to having a considerable number of pairs, 75,000 and 158,000, according to BirdLife International figures from 2015. A significant figure, which accounts for 40% of the global population.

“Thanks to Endesa, the Coracias project is making steady and continuous progress. The summer months are when we carry out the most important field work, with the aim of identifying their movements in order to study the habitat selection.”

Cristina Fernández García, (APNAE) Biologist coordinating the Coracias project

Initiatives for the conservation of the European Roller

The project for applying and monitoring conservation measures for the European Roller in the Parc Natural dels Aiguamolls “is making steady and continuous progress”, explained the coordinating biologist, Cristina Fernández.

The most recent nests installed at the beginning of April are controlled by a five-metre tall Wi-Fi endoscope camera that transmits real-time images and records the activity in each nest. The aim is to establish the parameters of interest regarding the birds’ reproductive phase.

Three GPS tracking devices have also been attached to three pairs of European Roller from the PNAE, which will allow us to study their movements and the selection of their habitat. This will help establish the most suitable location for future nests. The European Roller chicks are also controlled by using a ringing technique and physical data are measured.

collage of some photos of the European Roller and the nests

In 2019, the highest occupancy level of nest boxes (84% of available boxes) was recorded since the project began, reflecting its success and achieving new objectives such as occupation by other threatened species such as scops owls (Otus scops). In addition, the rate of breeding pairs inhabiting nest boxes was 64.86% of total occupations, with the reproductive success of the pairs being 75%. As a result of this observation, it has been possible to draw conclusions, for example, that the central territories of each breeding pairing of birds do not overlap with the territories of other pairs that breed contiguously and through these conclusions the actions to be carried out during the year 2020 have been planned.

Apart from the European Roller, other species of interest that live in the PNAE and the surrounding area, such as the common kestrel and the mentioned Eurasian Scops Owl, have used the boxes this season to establish their nests and therefore, they have also benefited from this project.

Documents to download

Download the images of this project

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