Red-Backed Shrike

Red-Backed Shrike


Profile Red-Backed Shrike     Literature page Red-Backed

[order] Passeriformes | [family] Laniidae | [latin] Lanius collurio | [UK] Red-Backed Shrike | [FR] Pie-grièche écorcheur | [DE] Neuntöter | [ES] Alcaudón de Dorso Rojo | [IT] Averla piccola | [NL] Grauwe Klauwier

Grauwe Klauwier determination

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Rather small, quite bold, raptorial passerine, with thick, hooked bill, fairly short wings, and relatively long tail, epitome of family in temperate Europe.
Plumage of male distinctive, with blue-grey and white head interrupted by black bill and mask, rufous back and inner wings, and white-edged black tail diagnostic.
Female and immature essentially brown above, dull white below with much barring. Habitually perches prominently.
Sexes dissimilar, no seasonal variation.

Breeds in middle latitudes of west Palearctic in temperate, Mediterranean, and steppe climates, mainly continental and lowland. Require sonny, sheltered, warm, dry or even semi-arid , and level or gently sloping terrain, with scattered or open growth of bushes, shrubs, to low trees providing hunting look-out posts commanding areas of short grass, heath, or bare soil suitable for small prey.

Lanius collurio is a widespread summer visitor to much of Europe, which accounts
for less than half of its global breeding range. Its European breeding population is
very large (>6,300,000 pairs), but underwent a moderate decline between 1970-1990.
Although declines continued in several countries during 1990-2000, most eastern
populations remained stable, and trend data were not available for the key populations
in Russia and Spain. Nevertheless, the species probably declined only slightly overall.
This shrike inhabits the major part of Europe and Western Asia, north to 64°N and east to 90°E, breeding in a wide variety of open habitats with patches of dense, scrubby vegetation. It winters in sub-Saharan Africa. The total population of the European Union amounts to 700000 breeding pairs currently, but since 25 years it is strongly declining in the western parts of its range. The species consequently disappeared from the British Isles, and is on the verge of extinction in Northern Belgium and the Netherlands. Recently this trend has somewhat stabilised, and in several regions a definite increase has been reported. The decline is perhaps partly due to climatic changes (wetter summers), but the main reasons are pesticide use and intensification of agriculture

Mainly insects, chiefly beetles, also other invertebrates, small mammals, birds, and reptiles. Most prey located from exposed, though usually low, perch using sit and wait strategy. Large moving insects spotted up to 30 m away, and caught in bill after shallow direct glide, sometimes with outstretched neck, which may terminate in brief hover before bird drops into vegetation. Also drops straight onto prey below perch. Vehemence of this action may be shown by strikingly worn forehead plumage

This species has a large range, with an estimated global Extent of Occurrence of 10,000,000 km². It has a large global population estimated to be 10,000,000 individuals (Harris and Franklin 2000). Global population trends have not been quantified; there is evidence of a population decline (Harris and Franklin 2000), but the species is not believed to approach the thresholds for the population decline criterion of the IUCN Red List (i.e. declining more than 30% in ten years or three generations). For these reasons, the species is evaluated as Least Concern. [conservation status from]

Breedng starts Mid May to early June in Finland, May-July in West Germany, mid May to early July in North Rumania. Nest site, is generally built in low dense often thorny bush but sometimes high and easily visible in trees, in some areas also in woodpiles. Nest is loose foundation of often green plant stems, reed leaves and stems, roots, grass, lichen, hair, etc., compactly lined with grass, hair, moss, fur, reed or reed-mace flower-heads, plant down, etc.
Clutch size 3-7 eggs, incubation 12-16 days, typically by female, but males recorded incubating, sometimes for long periods

Migratory, wintering in eastern tropical and southern Africa; north to south-east and coastal Kenya, but main bulk of population from Zambia and Malawi southwards. A classic case of loop migration, northward passage in spring following more easterly course than autumn passage, and also notable for concentration of migration routes across and round eastern end of Mediterranean, even by populations breeding in extreme west of Europe. Nocturnal migrant. Data suggest birds tend to feed on other passerine migrants on passage, rather than building up fat reserves prior to migration.
Birds leave northern, western and central European breeding grounds from late July, mostly in second half of August and early September. General direction of movement south-east or SSE towards eastern Mediterranean, but major changes in direction on passage through Europe regular at least in some populations. Thus breeders in extreme south-west of range (northern Spain and south-west France) migrate initially east, or even slightly north of east, to northern Italy and Greece, then alter course to south-east; and many Scandinavian and Finnish breeders migrate west of south to Italy before altering course to south-east. Birds crossing Mediterranean make landfall on North African coast almost entirely east of 20°E, with only isolated records to west, except Malta, where regular in small numbers. Passage through Egypt mainly mid-August to early November. First birds reach extreme southern wintering areas in late October.
Northward migration from winter quarters begins 2nd half of March; in extreme south, all birds gone by about middle of April. More easterly course of northward migration, compared with autumn, evident in East Africa. Thus spring passage mainly east of Lake Victoria (autumn passage especially marked west of 33°E). Further north, divergence between spring and autumn routes more pronounced: absent from Sudan in spring (common in north in autumn); in Somalia, spring passage outnumbers autumn passage 100:1, with corresponding copious arrivals on north shore of Gulf of Aden, and common in most of Arabia; spring migrants rare in Egypt, and mainly in east; in Israel also mainly in east. Birds arrive on breeding grounds in April in Israel, in Europe mostly May.


  1. Measurements
  2. spanwidth min.: 24 cm
  3. spanwidth max.: 27 cm
  4. size min.: 16 cm
  5. size max.: 18 cm
  6. Breeding
  7. incubation min.: 12 days
  8. incubation max.: 16 days
  9. fledging min.: 14 days
  10. fledging max.: 15 days
  11. broods 1
  12. eggs min.: 3
  13. eggs max.: 7
  14. Conservation Status
  15. Grauwe Klauwier status Least Concern


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