Four of the five European Rollers equipped with an Argos tag in 2018 by Timothée Schwartz, a PhD student at the Tour du Valat (find out more), are currently on their way back after several months of a long winter migration that brought them all the way to southern Africa, more than 7000 km from France. Our great adventurers left their wintering site in early March, and will take about two months (versus three to four months flying south) to arrive at the Canal du Midi, where they will return to their nesting cavity.
Koro is currently in southern Algeria, where he flew via West Africa, after his southward migration across the Mediterranean, Tunisia, Libya, Chad, and then the equatorial forests of central Africa all the way to north-eastern Namibia.
Meanwhile, Marcus, who seems to have taken the same route south to Angola, has already made it back to the Canal du Midi, and is currently somewhere between Béziers and Narbonne.
The same goes for Michel, who on the contrary wintered in north-eastern Namibia, in the same area as Koro.
As for Oden, he chose to take a more central flyway for his return trip, and is preparing to cross the Mediterranean Sea from the eastern coast of Algeria.
Freja is the only roller that has not given us any more news from her wintering site in central Angola, which may be due to an accident or a faulty or lost GPS tag.
This tracking of five individuals using Argos tags has thus already shown the different routes taken for the wintering migration of European Rollers from the same population—from the South of France through central Africa on their southward flight, and then via West Africa during their return flight, to cover a total distance of over 15, 000 km in several months.
Although they took different routes, in the autumn the five rollers stopped in the same spot for several days or weeks, near Lake Chad in south-eastern Niger. In addition, on their way south as well as on their return trip north, the rollers spent from two weeks to one month in the Sahel before continuing their migration. Finally, they crossed the major expanses such as the Mediterranean Sea, the Sahara Desert, and the equatorial forest mainly at night, and in only two or three days!
Continuing this long-term monitoring programme will enable us to keep improving our knowledge about the behaviour of this long-distance migratory species, which in turn will make conservation measures for this species more effective throughout its life history (see project).
You can view the specific details of the journeys made by these five rollers on the Movebank site (click on the map below and look for the project European Roller— Timothée Schwartz— Canal du Midi).
You can also provide financial support for this project by clicking here. Your contribution will enable us to buy new Argos tags and the equipment needed to study other rollers in the upcoming years.