Masked Shrike Lanius nubicus


Justification of Red List Category
This species has a very 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 very 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 36,300-105,000 pairs, which equates to 72,600-209,000 mature individuals (BirdLife International 2015). Europe forms c.60% of the global range, so a very preliminary estimate of the global population size is 121,000-348,000 mature individuals, although further validation of this estimate is needed.

Trend justification
This population is estimated to be declining following widespread declines late in the 20th century owing to an array of factors (Harris and Franklin 2000). In Europe the trend between 1998 and 2013 shows a moderate decline (EBCC 2015).


This species breeds in areas with a warm Mediterranean climate (Lefranc and Worfolk 1997) and favours natural open woodland with bushes and glades or big isolated trees. It nests in a variety of light deciduous, coniferous and mixed forests or in maquis and maquis-like vegetation. It is normally absent from open areas or those near human habitation, but occurs locally in cultivated land dotted with old trees, citrus and olive (Olea) groves, orchards, small fields with tall hedges and many trees, vineyards, gardens, and poplar (Populus) plantations. During migration and on African non-breeding grounds it prefers areas with quite high tree cover, typical habitat in north-east Africa is hot acacia (Acacia) country but it is also found in riverine woodland, Sahel thorn-scrub near streams and sometimes in open, relatively tall introduced eucalypt (Eucalyptus) plantations (Yosef and International Shrike Working Group 2008). It is monogamous and both sexes build the nest. Egg-laying occurs from April to mid-June. The nest is relatively small, open, very carefully constructed from rootlets, twigs, plant down, plant stems and moss, lined with wool, hair or man-made materials, decorated externally with lichen (more or less camouflaged), in a fork or on a lateral branch of a tree, or sometimes in dense (often thorny) bush. Clutches are typically four to six eggs (Yosef and International Shrike Working Group 2008). Grasshoppers and beetles make up the majority of the diet but it also feeds on other insects and small vertebrates such as lizards and small passerines (Lefranc and Worfolk 1997). The species is migratory and most birds winter in sub-Saharan Africa and extreme south-west of Arabian Penisula, occassionally overwintering in the Persian Gulf area (Yosef and International Shrike Working Group 2008).


In Europe the main likely cause of population decline is degradation of favoured diverse habitats (Yosef and International Shrike Working Group 2008), through drainage, afforestation, burning, mature woodland clearance and use of pesticides (Hagemeijer and Blair 1997). During migration it suffers from shooting in Turkey, the Middle East and Africa and is locally persecuted in Greece and Syria as it is considered a bird of ill omen (Yosef and International Shrike Working Group 2008).

Conservation actions

Conservation Actions Underway
Bern Convention Appendix II. EU Birds Directive Annex I. In most countries in its range the species is protected and is listed as "rare" in some national Red Lists (Yosef and International Shrike Working Group 2008).

Conservation Actions Proposed
Recently the species has started to occupy plantations, which have replaced natural woodland, and this adaptation may be of long-term conservation benefit to this species (Yosef and International Shrike Working Group 2008). Traditional farmland, managed at low intensity should be maintained within diverse landscapes and old trees and small groves should be preserved. Legal protection from shooting is required and such legislation should be enforced. Population assessments for the species should be conducted throughout its range to help ascertain its conservation needs (Tucker and Heath 1994).


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

Recommended citation
BirdLife International (2023) Species factsheet: Lanius nubicus. Downloaded from on 03/02/2023. Recommended citation for factsheets for more than one species: BirdLife International (2023) IUCN Red List for birds. Downloaded from on 03/02/2023.