Lesser Grey Shrike Lanius minor


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). Despite the fact that the population trend appears to be decreasing, the decline is not believed to be sufficiently rapid 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
In Europe, the breeding population is estimated to number 331,000-896,000 pairs, which equates to 662,000-1,790,000 mature individuals (BirdLife International 2015). Europe forms c.55% of the global range, so a very preliminary estimate of the global population size is 1,200,000-3,260,000 mature individuals, although further validation of this estimate is needed.

Trend justification
The population is suspected to be in decline owing to a multitude of possible ongoing threats (Harris and Franklin 2000). In Europe, trends between 1999 and 2013 have shown a steep decline (EBCC 2015).


This species occurs in open habitat with plenty of scattered or grouped trees and fewer bushes. It requires the presence of features offering perches, shade and accessible food (Yosef and International Shrike Working Group 2008). It uses open lowlands and hills in steppe and forest-steppe and Mediterranean zones. Suitable breeding habitats in Europe include orchards, groves, parks, woodland edges and overgrown ditches even if close to human settlement or cultivation (Tucker and Heath 1994). Tall trees are necessary for nesting. It is found up to 700 m, rarely to 900 m in central Europe, to 1,500 m in Russia and up to 2,200 m in Kazakhstan. It arrives at its breeding grounds from late-April to mid-May and egg-laying occurs May to early June. The nest is built by both sexes. It is a well-made structure with a loose foundation of twigs, grass, rootlets, string, etc., often with high proportion of green plants and lined with rootlets, feathers and hair but occasionally it is unlined. Clutch size can be from three to seven eggs but usually five or six. It is a specialized insectivore, although it also feeds on spiders and very rarely vertebrates (Yosef and International Shrike Working Group 2008). Prey is taken from the ground and air, although the species requires few perches and often hovers. Unlike other shrikes food hoarding is rare (Tucker and Heath 1994). The species is a long distance migrant and spends less than four months on its breeding grounds. The entire breeding population winters in southern Africa (Yosef and International Shrike Working Group 2008). European birds depart in the autumn and overwinter in southern Africa before beginning to return in late February or early March (Hagemeijer and Blair 1997).


Agricultural intensification and an increase in monocultures have driven declines in western and central Europe (Tucker and Heath 1994). Heavy use of fertilizers since the middle of the 20th century has led to an increase in vegetation cover, causing wetter and colder micro-climates close to the soil, this, in turn, has negative effects on the large arthropod fauna on which this species relies (Yosef and International Shrike Working Group 2008). The use of insecticides has also contributed to a decline in prey for this species. Climatic fluctuations, causing wetter conditions in some areas of Europe and drier in others, are also thought to be a serious threat. The species suffers high losses due to predation by natural predators and human disturbance and in central Europe it is persecuted as a predator of song birds (Tucker and Heath 1994).

Conservation actions

Conservation Actions Underway
EU Birds Directive Annex I. Bern Convention Appendix II. A conservation programme in Spain has shown some success through monitoring, habitat management and the release of captive bred birds (Martínez 2011). Agri-environment schemes have been implemented successfully as seen in France, in Languedoc-Roussillon where in 1996 as special wine was even produced and sold with some of the proceeds going to habitat management for this species (LeFranc and Worfolk 1997).

Conservation Actions Proposed
This species would benefit from a decrease in use of agricultural pesticides and from the maintenance of traditional, mosaic farming methods, with old orchards (Tucker and Heath 1994, Yosef and International Shrike Working Group 2008), the development of protected areas in suitable habitats and favourable habitat management (LeFranc and Worfolk 1997). Studies should be undertaken into the influence of predators such as corvids on nesting success and post-fledgling survival and censuses and monitoring should be improved in eastern and south-east Europe (Tucker and Heath 1994).


Text account compilers
Ashpole, J, Butchart, S., Ekstrom, J.

Recommended citation
BirdLife International (2021) Species factsheet: Lanius minor. Downloaded from on 22/01/2021. Recommended citation for factsheets for more than one species: BirdLife International (2021) IUCN Red List for birds. Downloaded from on 22/01/2021.