Scaly ground-roller -- 鳞斑地三宝鸟 (Brachypteracias squamiger)

Scaly ground-roller
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Scaly ground-roller fact file

Scaly ground-roller description

GenusBrachypteracias (1)

The unmistakeable scaly-ground roller is, as its name suggests, a ground dwelling bird with a striking pattern of black-and-white scaling to its head and underparts (2). It has a thick-set body, with long, pink legs, a strong, greyish bill and distinctive black bands running down the centre of the head, behind the eye and across the cheek. The upperparts are coppery-brown below the nape, becoming greenish on the wings down to the base of the tail, with attractive white tips to the wing coverts (2) (3). The rest of the tail is mostly reddish-brown with sky-blue tips (3). Its call is a single guttural boop or woop repeated every 5-10 seconds (2) (4) (5).

Brachypteracias squamigera.
Brachyptérolle écailleux.
Length: 27-31 cm (2)

Scaly ground-roller biology

The scaly ground-roller is a rare flier, only venturing off the ground when needing to cross a river or avoid a predator (5). Instead, it spends most of its time amongst the dense leaf litter of the forest floor, hopping around in search of food. It feeds primarily on centipedes and earthworms, but will also take other invertebrates, such as spiders, snails, beetles and ants, and even small vertebrates, such as geckos, lizards and shrews (2) (5).

Nests are made in earth burrows, which are freshly dug each season or appropriated from a past inhabitant, such as a crab or rodent (2) (5). Egg-laying occurs during the dry season from mid-October until early November, when there is ample dry leaf litter to line the nest with. The available evidence suggests that only a single egg is laid, which is incubated exclusively by the female for approximately 18 days. After hatching, the young chick remains in the nest for around 24 days before fledging, during which time both parent birds provide it with food (5).


Scaly ground-roller range

The scaly ground-roller is found only in eastern Madagascar, from Marojejy in the north to Andohahela in the south (2).


Scaly ground-roller habitat

This terrestrial bird most commonly occurs in lowland rainforest below 1,000 metres, preferably where there is dense undergrowth and plenty of leaf-litter and plant debris (2). However, it has also been observed in areas cleared for agriculture and appears fairly tolerant of secondary growth (5).


Scaly ground-roller status

Classified as Vulnerable (VU) on the IUCN Red List (1).

IUCN Red List species status – Vulnerable


Scaly ground-roller threats

As with many of Madagascar’s endemic species, the greatest threat to the scaly ground-roller is the loss of large tracts of forest habitat, cut down to support subsistence farming. This is particularly the case on the east coast of Madagascar, where much of the historically forested land has either been cleared or is severely degraded. In some parts of its habitat, commercial logging is an additional concern. This widespread degradation of scaly ground-roller habitat is almost certainly responsible for a suspected decline in its small population (2).


Scaly ground-roller conservation

The scaly ground-roller occurs within several National Parks and Special Reserves in Madagascar, including the island’s largest protected area, the Masoala National Park (2) (6). In addition, there are future proposals to increase the area of suitable habitat that is under protection. An immediate priority is to conduct research into the species’ dispersal capability, home-range size, population size and trends. This will help to establish the full impact of deforestation on this species and assist in the development of appropriate conservation measures (2)

View information on this species at the UNEP World Conservation Monitoring Centre.

Find out more

For further information on conservation in Madagascar see:

For more information on this and other bird species please see:



This information is awaiting authentication by a species expert, and will be updated as soon as possible. If you are able to help please contact:


Small feathers concealing the bases of larger flight feathers, usually on the wings or tail.
A species or taxonomic group that is only found in one particular country or geographic area.
The act of keeping eggs warm so that development is possible.
Animals with no backbone.
Secondary growth
Forest that has re-grown after a major disturbance, such as fire or timber harvest, but has not yet reached the mature state of primary forest.
Animals with a backbone.


  1. IUCN Red List (April, 2008)
  2. BirdLife International (November, 2008)
  3. Sinclair, I. and Langrand, O. (2004) Birds of the Indian Ocean Islands: Madagascar, Mauritius, Seychelles, Reunion and the Comoros. Struik, Cape Town.
  4. Kirchman, J.J., Hackett, S.J., Goodman, S.M. and Bates, J.M. (2001) Phylogeny and systematics of ground rollers (Brachypteraciidae) of Madagascar. Auk, 118: 849 - 863.
  5. Rakotoarisoa, J.E. and Be, B. (2004) Breeding and foraging behaviour and habitat characteristics of the Scaly Ground-roller Geobiastes squamigerus in Madagascar. Ostrich, 75: 25 - 31.
  6. Wildlife Conservation Society (November, 2008)

Image credit

Scaly ground-roller  
Scaly ground-roller

© Nick Garbutt /

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