European Roller (Coracias garrulus)
It usually breeds in temperate climates, preferring open areas such as fields, crops or pastures.
It is mainly insectivorous, although it may occasionally feed on small reptiles and mammals.
Its song is unmistakable and gives the species its name, because it resembles the sound made by rattles (wooden instruments with a toothed wheel used to make noise).
There are no major differences between sexes. In their spectacular courtship, the male swoops to the ground, corkscrewing and singing while the female watches from the ground.
Nests in hollows of logs and sandy slopes dug by other species, but the species also accepts nest boxes and hollows in human structures.
Lack of suitable nesting sites is often the limiting resource for this species, but major changes in land use (disappearance of grasslands, intensification of rain-fed agriculture, spread of intensive woody crops) are also threatening its populations. It winters in much of sub-Saharan Africa.
It is listed as a species of “special interest” for the European Union (Annex I, Directive 2009/147/EC), and as “endangered” in the Red Book of Birds in Spain (2021).
Black-bellied Sandgrouse (Pterocles orientalis)
A medium-sized bird, similar to a partridge, typical of semi-arid areas, moorlands and dry crops. It has a clear sexual dimorphism, although both sexes have black belly and flight feathers on wings and tail, which is very evident in flight.
It is difficult species to see, but its typical song (a “churrrk”, from which it gets the name by which it is known in many places – churra -) is easy to distinguish.
It feeds mainly on seeds. The Black-bellied Sandgrouse is nomadic and partly migratory.
It nests in a slight depression in the ground. Both members of the pair incubate the eggs and care for the nestlings, but only the males are responsible for fetching water for them, soaking their chest feathers (specially designed for this purpose).
The current trend of the species in the Iberian Peninsula (the only European population) is very negative, due to changes in land use, such as the disappearance of pastures after abandonment of extensive livestock farming, the intensification of dry farming, the introduction of irrigation, and the conversion of arable crops to intensive woody crops. The massive development of photovoltaic plants and power lines without adequate planning has recently worsened these threats.
It is one of the steppe birds that has experienced the greatest decline in recent decades. Classified as of “special interest” for the EU (Annex I of Directive 2009/147/EC), the Red Book of Birds in Spain (2021) classifies it as “endangered” on the peninsular level.