Brachypteraciidae – Ground Rollers

Scaly Ground-Roller Brachypteracias squamigera ©Jonathan Roussouw Website

The Brachypteraciidae or Ground Rollers are a small family of non-migratory near-passerine birds restricted to Madagascar. They are related to the kingfishers, bee-eaters and rollers. They most resemble the latter group, and are sometimes considered a sub-family of the true rollers.

Ground rollers share the generally crow-like size and build of the true rollers, ranging from 25 to 49 centimetres in length. They also hunt reptiles and large insects. They are more terrestrial than the Coracidae species, and this is reflected in their longer legs and shorter, more rounded wings.

They lack the highly colourful appearance of the true rollers, and are duller in appearance, with striped or flecked plumage. They are much more elusive and shy than their relatives, and are normally difficult to find in the Malagasy forests. Often the hooting breeding call is all that betrays their presence.

They nest as solitary pairs in holes in the ground which they excavate themselves, unlike the true rollers, which rarely nest in ground holes and even then do not dig their own nests.

There are just five species of Ground Roller in the family Brachypteraciidae, all endemic to the island of Madagascar; they are:

Short-legged Ground-Roller Brachypteracias leptosomus
Scaly Ground-Roller Brachypteracias squamigera

Pitta-like Ground-Roller Atelornis pittoides
Rufous-headed Ground-Roller Atelornis crossleyi

Long-tailed Ground-Roller Uratelornis chimaera

Number of Species
  • Number of bird species: 5

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