Lanius collurio Linnaeus, 1758, Sweden. Up to five races described, but probably best considered monotypic as the supposed and slight differences between races also occur within given local populations all over the breeding range.
OTHER COMMON NAMES
French: Pie-griиche йcorcheur; German: Neuntцter; Spanish: Alcaudon Dorsirrojo.
6.2–7 in (16–18 cm); on average 1.05–1.12 oz (30–32 g). One of the smallest Lanius shrikes; strong sexual dimorphism. The brightly colored male is unmistakable with his gray head, reddish brown upperparts, gray rump, black tail fringed white, and pinkish underside. Female is much duller, but her ground color is variable; brown and gray are dominant; her under-parts are generally heavily vermiculated. Juveniles are very similar to the female but with strong barring, (black crescents), also on upperparts.
Most widespread and common shrike in the western Palearctic, almost reaching the Arctic circle in the north. In some hot Mediterranean areas, like Spain and southern France, it is regarded as a bird of low mountains. This long-distance migrant winters in eastern and southern Africa, from southwestern Kenya southwards.
Semi-open habitats dotted with low perches and thorny bushes like hawthorn and blackthorn. Benefits from low-intensity farming, particularly traditional pastures; also found in young plantations, forest clearings, etc. Breeds up to about 6,600 ft (2,000 m) in the French Alps and even up to about 10,500 ft (3,200 m) on meadows in Caucasus. In Africa, it favors arid savannas and particularly dry Acacia thornveld.
In breeding season, it defends a rather small territory covering 3.7–7.4 acres (1.5–3 ha). At the end of April or beginning of May, when they have returned from Africa, perched males advertise their territories by typical, far-carrying, and somewhat nasal calls. It is a “sit and wait” predator that takes most of its prey on the ground; however, many insects are also caught in the air in fair weather. Larders are kept, but that habit varies among individuals and is less common in warmer climates, where insects are plentiful and easier to locate. Leaves its breeding sites from the beginning of July onward; October observations are rare in Europe. It is a long-distance and a loop migrant; in autumn, west European populations converge towards Greece and its islands before crossing the sea to Egypt, and then to Sudan and Ethiopia; in spring, these two last countries are almost completely avoided as the species passes more to the east, toward the Arabian peninsula.
FEEDING ECOLOGY AND DIET
Arthropods, mainly insects, particularly beetles and grasshoppers. Small vertebrates constitute about 5% of the captures, but may even be more important in certain years when moles are abundant.
Monogamous. Densities can be locally high with up to seven pairs, almost loose colonies, per 25 acres (10 ha) in good habitats. Isolated pairs are not rare, however. Nests are built soon after arrival from wintering quarters at an average height of about 4.2 ft (1.3 m) above the ground, often in a thorny bush. In most areas, laying begins at the end of May and peaks in the first two weeks of June. Second broods are very rare, but replacement clutches are frequent. Female usually lays four to six eggs (range one through eight); incubation is 13–15 days exclusively by female, who is regularly fed by male. Nestling period is about 15 days. Young are completely independent when they are about six weeks old.
Not threatened, but declining in many countries, particularly at lower altitudes where they have been eliminated by the intensification of agriculture. Climatic fluctuations may also play a role; has disappeared as a regular breeding bird from Britain, which lies on the north-western limits of its range.
SIGNIFICANCE TO HUMANS
In Europe, it is now protected and regarded as a significant bio-indicator of the health of the wider environment. Thousands still are killed on migration, particularly in Greece and in the Middle East.
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