Brachypteraciidae – Ground rollers

Full-on terrestrials, non-migratory, elusive, and shy birds; possess longer legs and rounded short wings

Endemic to the diverse ecosystems of Madagascar, unlike their relatives, the true rollers (Coraciidae), which are known for their vivid plumage, ground rollers exhibit more subdued coloration, often characterized by shades of olive green and brown, with patterned bodies that blend into the forest floor. This cryptic coloration adapts to their ground-dwelling lifestyle, providing camouflage against predators.

Ground rollers are unique to Madagascar’s various habitats, with most species residing in the rainforest. One species, however, has adapted to the arid desert environment, illustrating the remarkable adaptability of this family. Although they are sometimes considered a sub-family of the true rollers due to behavioral and anatomical similarities, ground rollers are distinguished by their less colorful appearance and preference for a terrestrial lifestyle.

These birds have evolved to live on the ground, which is reflected in their morphology; they possess long, slender legs well-suited for walking and running through leaf litter. This ground-based life also influences their nesting habits. Unlike other roller species that often excavate their own nesting burrows, ground rollers typically use natural tree holes for nesting sites. This behavior may be due to the dense forest floor environment where it is more practical to utilize existing structures than to create new ones.

The diet of ground rollers is mainly composed of various invertebrates found within the leaf litter, such as large insects and worms. They also consume reptiles, contributing to the control of these populations within their habitat. Their foraging technique involves scanning the leaf litter with their large heads and beaks, ready to strike quickly when prey is detected.

Ground rollers are monogamous, often forming long-term pair bonds. Both males and females share the responsibility of caring for their offspring, from incubating the eggs to feeding and protecting the chicks until they are ready to fend for themselves.