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When summer arrives, the European roller (Coracias garrulus as it is scientifically called) decorates Mediterranean countries and part of Eastern Europe with a beautiful range of blues: These correspond to its plumage that, because it belongs to a family of birds of tropical and subtropical origin, is remarkable for its bright colour and beauty.
The summer season is when it breeds. This is why this bird looks for areas that are not so warm. It then flies back to North Africa, where it spends the winter months hibernating.
For a number of years, the population of the roller has been globally in regression, mainly due to a reduction in the availability of suitable nesting sites and the intensification of agriculture. Endesa saw this problem as an opportunity to contribute to the conservation of this species.
Actions for the conservation of the European roller
The Coracias project, under the leadership of the biologist Cristina Fernández, began five years ago. Its objective is to make use of the supports for the power lines in an area where there is a shortage of trees with cavities, which is what this species requires for nesting sites. They are used to install nest boxes and this will contribute to the conservation and reproduction of the European roller.
The initiative's main activity is in the Aiguamolls de l'Empordà Nature Reserve (PNAE) and the Mongrí, Islas Medas Islands y el Bajo Ter Nature Reserve. A total of 77 nest boxes have already been installed and in 7 of them photo trap cameras have been installed that allow us to look out for predators of the species.
Results so far have been very positive: 58 nest boxes have already been occupied, most of them by European rollers, and an average of four eggs per nest have been laid. About 130 chicks have hatched and fledged. The remaining nest boxes have been occupied by other species also threatened or in regression, including Eurasian scops owls, lesser kestrels and common owls.
GPS transmitters to track the birds
Taking advantage of the nesting period, last summer technicians from the Technical Forestry Centre of Catalonia (CTFC in Spanish) attached GPS transmitters to six specimens in the Aiguamolls del'Empordà Nature Reserve (PNAE in Spanish). The GPS transmitters they installed are small solar-powered devices that monitor the bird's position every 30 minutes.
The data is collected via an aerial located in La Closa de Mornau (an area owned by Incasòl, which made it available for this purpose) and information can be gathered up to a maximum distance of between 10 and 15 kilometres. This information is available to the project's technicians via the telephone network (GSM) for further study.
In addition to collecting the first information during the last weeks of summer, if any of these specimens return to the Aiguamolls de l'Empordà Nature Reserve after migrating for the winter, much more information will be available, including details regarding their migratory route and where they spend the winter in North Africa.
"A GPS transmitter is a very powerful tool that provides information on key aspects of the behaviour of the species and enables the definition of measures that could contribute to its preservation," explained Cristina Fernández, the person responsible for the project. "It gives us information about the areas around the nesting site it uses as feeding grounds so we are able to understand what kind of small-scale habitat it selects," he adds.
Apart from its use in this project, the aerial has been made available to the Nature Reserve to be used in other studies of different species, so it is now a tool at the service of wildlife preservation.
A commitment to protecting biodiversity
"Endesa is firmly committed to the protection and preservation of Biodiversity and has been developing this project since 2017, and it involves consolidating the population of the species in the Aiguamolls de L'Empordá Nature Reserve and more recently also in Montgrí", our head of biodiversity, Antonio Casasola, pointed out.
We are undertaking a number of different projects throughout the country with regard to the protection and preservation of biodiversity and the protection of threatened species, areas and habitats, with a view to increasing scientific knowledge and highlighting the importance of biodiversity. In 2021 alone, we undertook 29 actions all over Spain.