Birds of farmland and grassland habitats have the worst conservation status in Europe. The European roller (Coracias garrulous) is one such species whose population has declined due to agricultural intensification. Abandonment and reduced management of meadows and pastures, and the conversion of grassland to other land use, has resulted in lower quality foraging habitats. European roller is a secondary-cavities nesting species that is not able to create its own nest holes, except in loess and sand cliffs. The lack of suitable nesting sites seems to be the factor most limiting the recovery of its population, based on the experiences of previous conservation actions. Public awareness of European roller is low across its breeding range, and there are no strategic management tools for its conservation.
The ROLLER LIFE+ project aims to improve habitat conditions for European roller in order to ensure its recovery. The projects specific objectives are to: Create nesting opportunities for European roller in 17 Natura 2000 sites in Hungary, holding altogether 589-717 breeding pairs, and in 15 Natura 2000 sites in western Romania, holding 97-137 breeding pairs; Improve nesting and feeding habitats on three characteristic roller habitat types in three project sites; Demonstrate new management methods to owners and managers of key European roller habitats to promote their use; Decrease the number of European rollers mortalities caused by unsafe nesting opportunities and electrocution; Promote bird-friendly habitat management of Natura 2000 sites, especially the prevention of tree logging; Ensure sustainable and long-term conservation management of the species by the Farmer for Rollers programme and the creation of a National Action Plan in Hungary; and Increase public awareness of European roller to strengthen the conservation of the species.
Expected results: Increase of European roller breeding population in targeted Natura 2000 sites in Hungary by over 20% during the project i.e. 707-860 breeding pairs by 2019; Increase of the population in the western Romanian project area by over 20% to reach 116-164 breeding pairs by 2019; 459 ha of new roller nesting and foraging habitat in different regions of Hungary; Training courses for target groups concerning insulation techniques for medium-voltage pylons in Hungary, and 1 000 pylons in Romania, to reduce bird electrocutions; Increase in the overall occupation rate of European roller nest boxes to 45%, with a 25% occupancy expected in the case of artificial holes in Hungary; At least 18% of nest boxes occupied by rollers in western Romania; Migratory stop-over sites revealed in Hungary and Romania, and actions taken to minimise mortality factors on surveyed pathways; Raised public and stakeholder awareness due to a wide range of dissemination actions and the Roller Visitor Centre and education trail; and Experiences of the project actions used to plan actions for the expansion of the range of species in the Carpathian basin.