The heavy-bodied European roller feeds on invertebrates, such as beetles, crickets, locusts, caterpillars, flies and spiders. They are also know to prey on small numbers of larger animals such as frogs, lizards, snakes and weak, small birds (2). It spends long periods sitting on an elevated perch, such as a bare branch or a power line, watching the ground intently for potential prey (5). The European roller will also follow ploughs on farmland, where disturbance of the soil unearths a feast (2).
The European roller migrates vast distances between continents. From the breeding grounds of Europe and Asia, the roller flies over 10,000 kilometres to sub-Saharan Africa, repeating the mammoth journey again in spring. The movement in early April of hundreds of thousands of rollers travelling north in a narrow corridor along the coast, from Tanzania to Somalia, is one of Africa’s most spectacularly visible migrations (2).
Whilst on its breeding ground, the monogamous European roller will defend a territory with its mating partner (2). Within this territory a nest site is situated in a hole in a large tree, building, cliff or riverbank (2). A clutch of one to seven, but most commonly four or five, eggs are laid from May to June (4). The eggs are incubated, primarily by the female, for 17 to 19 days. The chicks hatch naked and blind, but quickly develop, and fledge after 25 to 30 days. The young continue to be fed by adults for a further three weeks or more (2).