Biodiversity and Conservation

, Volume 26, Issue 3, pp 553–566 | Cite as

Landscape determinants of European roller foraging habitat: implications for the definition of agri-environmental measures for species conservation

  • Inês CatryEmail author
  • Joana Marcelino
  • Aldina M. A. Franco
  • Francisco Moreira
Original Paper


Across much of Europe, farmland birds are declining more than those in other habitats. From a conservation perspective, identifying the primary preferred habitats could help improve the foraging conditions of target species and, consequently, enhance their breeding success and survival. Here, we investigated the ranging behaviour and foraging habitat selection of the European roller (Coracias garrulus) during the breeding season in an agricultural landscape of South Iberia. The occurrence of foraging rollers was predicted to gradually increase with decreasing distance from the nest and increasing availability of perches, such as fences and electric wires. Traditional olive groves and stubble fields were positively and negatively associated with the occurrence of rollers, respectively. Additionally, analysis of hunting strikes showed that rollers highly prefer foraging in fallows rather than cereal or stubble fields. Prey surveys revealed that fallows had the highest abundance of grasshoppers, rollers’ preferred prey during chick-rearing. Pair home-ranges, obtained from 95% fixed Kernel estimators averaged 70.9 ha (range = 34–118 ha) and most foraging trips (80%) occurred in the close vicinity of the nest (<500 m). Number of chicks fledged was not affected by mean foraging distances travelled during the chick-rearing period. Overall, our results suggest that traditional extensive practices of cereal cultivation, with large areas of low-intensity grazed fallows, represent a high-quality foraging habitat for rollers and should be promoted through agri-environmental schemes within at least 1-km radius from the nest. These recommendations are targeted at the roller, but have been shown to apply broadly to several other steppe-bird species.


Habitat selection Farmland landscapes Coracias garrulus Home-ranges Agri-environmental schemes Iberian Peninsula 



Thanks are due to Teresa Catry for helping during fieldwork. This work is funded by FEDER funds through the Operational Programme for Competitiveness Factors—COMPETE and by National Funds through FCT—Foundation for Science and Technology under the UID/BIA/50027/2013 and POCI-01-0145-FEDER-006821. I.C. benefited from post-doctoral grants from Fundação para a Ciência e Tecnologia (SFRH/BPD/76514/2011 and SFRH/BPD/102637/2014).

Supplementary material

10531_2016_1241_MOESM1_ESM.doc (33 kb)
Supplementary material 1 (DOC 33 kb)


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Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media Dordrecht 2016

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Centro de Ecologia Aplicada ‘Prof. Baeta Neves’ and InBio – Rede de Investigação em Biodiversidade e Biologia Evolutiva, Instituto Superior de AgronomiaUniversidade de LisboaLisbonPortugal
  2. 2.School of Environmental SciencesUniversity of East AngliaNorwichUK
  3. 3.REN Biodiversity Chair, CIBIO/InBIO - Rede de Investigação em Biodiversidade e Biologia EvolutivaUniversidade do PortoVairãoPortugal

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