“a truly magnificent bird”, the roller, this beautiful blue bird has arrived in Franche-Comté

It is one of the most beautiful birds that ornithologists can observe in France during the summer. Coming from Africa, rollers usually stay in the Mediterranean basin. In recent weeks, nearly 150 individuals have been observed in the region. An absolutely exceptional situation. We explain why.

Dressed in blue with large black bands around the wings and a reddish-brown back, it has all the attributes of an exotic bird. However, the European Roller has been colonizing the meadows of Franche-Comté since mid-August in quantities that had never been observed in the past. Indeed, the bird which arrives at the end of April from the South of the Sahara is usually limited to the Mediterranean rim to come and nest. The arrival of these many isolated individuals further north is a great surprise for ornithologists.

Jean-Philippe Paul, a great specialist in wildlife in Franche-Comté and more particularly birds, still cannot believe it! “The last record dates from 2014 and we were able to observe 8 individuals who had settled there. Since then, our observations have reported one or even two individuals during the end of the summer. On August 11, while going to observe nature, he took me a few minutes to see my first Roller. I immediately realized that the situation was not normal” explains the ornithologist.

As a result, all lovers of rare birds have started to roam open areas such as meadows, because the roller loves these open areas to capture insects such as crickets, grasshoppers which it is fond of. “Very quickly, we noticed that the rollers that come to nest around the Mediterranean were starting to move north. The observations made in the field showed young individuals and we then had to understand why the bird arrived at our home in proportions never before observed. explains Jean-Paul Philippe.

Climate change and the exceptional drought that we have been experiencing for three months are likely to be the cause of this migration of the beautiful blue bird.. “The south of France is so roasted by the heat wave and the lack of water, that it has become very difficult for the rollers to find locusts, grasshoppers to feed. The young of the new broods surely find themselves in competition with the adults in the face of a rarefied food and then go up to the north. If many insects have also disappeared from us, there remains, in Franche-Comté, a population of crickets which has allowed the birds to feed and above all to settle for times that we had never before observed.. This analysis, Jean-Philippe Paul shares it with many other specialists and it highlights, once again, the changes caused by climate change.

Pascal Juif considers himself first and foremost as a naturalist photographer. If ornithology is not his specialty, his senses were awakened when he heard about the beautiful blue bird. “I heard about places where the roller had been observed and I immediately took my binoculars and my camera to go in search of it. I know the European bee-eater with multicolored plumage well, but I had never seen a roller before. On the way with the car to go on his quest, because it allows you to cover a large area hoping to see him on a pole or an electric cable” explains the photographer.

Once the blue bird is spotted, the photographer discreetly pulls out his camera and drives up. The roller is very shy and it is preferable to use its vehicle as a lookout otherwise it flies away. “The wait can sometimes be long before he dives to the ground to look for his food. I try to spot the places where he likes to perch, because when he arrives to land, you can see all these colors and it’s really beautiful” we Explain Pascal.

Matthew Carisey has always been a bird enthusiast. The European roller is a bird that he can only see very rarely around Besançon. So inevitably, his coming was for him an event not to be missed. “This what pleases me is the search for a bird that we never see in our country except for one or two individuals. Participate in the count with the LPO and see their number increase day by day is exciting according to the bird watcher.

Also a photographer, Mathieu had to immortalize his presence during this late summer with a few shots of the blue bird. “He’s a really beautiful bird. Even if the young people we observe here are less pronounced blue than the adults, it is still a feast for the eyes”.

With the days getting shorter, the Rollers will feel the call of the great trip to Africa. In the next fortnight, they will suddenly disappear from regions such as Burgundy-Franche-Comté. Their return will depend on the evolution of the climate. If the scorching summer that we have just had were to repeat itself, we will meet again, without a doubt, this beautiful blue bird flying over our meadows. Jean-Philippe Paul likes to say with humor that the Roller will nest here in 2035. He is surely right.

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