Great Grey Shrike Lanius excubitor


Justification of Red List Category
This species has an extremely large range, and hence does not approach the thresholds for Vulnerable under the range size criterion (Extent of Occurrence <20,000 km2 combined with a declining or fluctuating range size, habitat extent/quality, or population size and a small number of locations or severe fragmentation). The population trend appears to be decreasing, however the species is not thought to approach the thresholds for Vulnerable under the population trend criterion (>30% decline over ten years or three generations). The population size is extremely large, and hence does not approach the thresholds for Vulnerable under the population size criterion (<10,000 mature individuals with a continuing decline estimated to be >10% in ten years or three generations, or with a specified population structure). For these reasons the species is evaluated as Least Concern.

Population justification
The global population size has not been quantified. In Europe, the breeding population has estimated to number c.69,000-176,000 pairs (BirdLife International 2015).

Trend justification
Data suggest that the species is decreasing in Asia (Yosef and International Shrike Working Group 2016). Following the taxonomic change, in Europe and the EU27 the population size is estimated to be roughly stable over 12 years (three generations) (BirdLife International 2015). Therefore, the species is tentatively assessed as declining, although this is thought to be only a very slow decline, pending further information.


The species breeds in subarctic and temperate climates in open country with trees, bushes, fence posts and powerlines. Northern populations also use clearings in taiga or in the transition zone from taiga to tundra and forest edge. It is sometimes found on marshland and peat bogs. Sparse and low vegetation is an important habitat characteristic for this species (Yosef and International Shrike Working Group 2016). The beginning of egg-laying varies with latitude (Lefranc and Worfolk 1997) but is generally from March to early July in Europe, April-May in Alaska and May-July in eastern Canada (Yosef and International Shrike Working Group 2016). The nest is built by both sexes and is a well-made structure with a loose foundation of twigs, grass, rootlets, string, lined with rootlets, feathers and hair. It is generally placed high above ground in a fork or on a lateral branch of a tree, often pine (Pinus) or poplar (Populus) or sometimes in dense shrub. Clutch usually 3-9 eggs. It feeds principally on small vertebrates such as small rodents, particularly voles, but also small birds, lizards, amphibians and large insects (Lefranc and Worfolk 1997). Most populations are migratory or at least partially so, the non-breeding range includes southern parts of the breeding range in addition to more southern areas (Yosef and International Shrike Working Group 2016).


In Europe habitat for this species has been destroyed and degraded by agricultural intensification. The removal of hedges and trees has reduced the number of available hunting perches and nest sites and reduced food availability. Wide scale use of herbicides and pesticides has also reduced the prey availability. However the cessation of agricultural activity can also have negative impacts, such as the removal of sheep-grazing may lead to the invasion of scrub, resulting in unsuitable habitat for the species. Destruction of peatbogs with scattered pines is thought to explain declines around Moscow. It may also be adversely affected by bad weather and harsh winters. It is also threatened by the development of industry and road building and disturbance from humans, cars and dogs can increase predation by corvids (Tucker and Heath 1994).

Conservation actions

Conservation Actions Underway
Bern Convention Appendix II. The species is protected in most European countries and is frequently listed on national red lists; in some listed as 'highly endangered' and in more countries as 'vulnerable' or 'endangered' (Yosef and International Shrike Working Group 2016). A national species action plan has been published in Luxembourg (Biver et al. 2009).

Conservation Actions Proposed
Reducing intensive agricultural management would probably be the most effective conservation measure for this species (Yosef and International Shrike Working Group 2016). Broad habitat conservation measures are required including, the maintenance of low-intensity farming practices, a reduction in the use of agro-chemicals, protection of areas of moorland, heathland, fallow lands and peatbogs, prevention of afforestation of fallow lands or low-quality pastures, restoration of standard orchards and the limiting of access to certain areas to minimise disturbance at nests (Tucker and Heath 1994).


Text account compilers
Ashpole, J, Butchart, S., Shutes, S., Derhé, M., Wheatley, H.

Recommended citation
BirdLife International (2022) Species factsheet: Lanius excubitor. Downloaded from on 27/06/2022. Recommended citation for factsheets for more than one species: BirdLife International (2022) IUCN Red List for birds. Downloaded from on 27/06/2022.