Long-tailed Ground Roller
47cm. A long-tailed, charismatic ground-dwelling bird. Greyish upper parts (including crown, mantle and rump), heavily streaked with dark brown in complex pattern. Very long tail, pale brown barred darker, with pale blue outer webs and tips to outer feathers. Darker wings, with pale blue wing-coverts and a white patch at the base of the primaries. Whitish breast, with narrow dark brown breast-band joined to moustachial stripes that are brown in the center. Long dark legs, short and rather stout bill. Similar spp. Separated from terrestrial couas Coua by blue-edged tail, pale greyish overall appearance and blackish collar. Hints Forages for terrestrial invertebrates in dense, spiny, sub desert vegetation, often lifting and lowering tail.
This terrestrial species inhabits semi-arid deciduous forest (Seddon and Tobias 2007, undated) on a sandy substrate and of a low stature (4-6 m), and sparse coastal scrub, from sea-level to 80 m. The species shows a preference for slightly and even heavily degraded habitats (Seddon and Tobias 2007, undated). It is tolerant of disturbance by livestock, having been observed in extremely degraded forest close to villages (N. Seddon and J. Tobias in litt. 1999, 2000). Although it is largely terrestrial, this insectivorous species roosts in trees and shrubs, and vocalises from low perches (Seddon and Tobias undated). It appears to be socially monogamous and defends small territories around nest-holes during the breeding season. The nest-holes lead to long burrows which are dug at an angle into the flat sand. It occurs in family groups containing one to four juveniles immediately after fledging, but is otherwise solitary in the dry season and lives in pairs after the first rains in October-November (Seddon and Tobias undated). Breeding peaks in November (Seddon 2001).
The spiny forest of south-west Madagascar has been identified as the bio geographical region in greatest need of additional reserves nationally (Du Puy and Moat 1996). The northern part of this region, to which the species is restricted, is entirely unprotected (Morris and Hawkins 1998; Seddon 2001), and is suffering the most rapid degradation (Seddon et al. 2000). Potential conservation measures have recently been recommended for the area, designed in consultation with local communities (Seddon et al. 2000).