Red-backed Shrike Lanius collurio


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 7,440,000-14,300,000 pairs, which equates to 14,900,000-28,600,000 mature individuals (BirdLife International 2015). Europe forms c.60% of the global range, so a very preliminary estimate of the global population size is 24,800,000-47,700,000 mature individuals, although further validation of this estimate is needed.

Trend justification
The population is estimated to be declining overall following a dramatic decline in the west and north-east of its breeding range from 1970 to 1990 at least (Harris and Franklin 2000). However in Europe, trends between 1980 and 2013 show that the population is stable (EBCC 2015).


The species breeds in temperate and Mediterranean climates (Lefranc and Worfolk 1997). It requires sunny, warm, usually dry, and level or gently sloping terrain, with scattered bushes, shrubs or low trees providing hunting posts overlooking areas of short grass, heath or bare soil. High-quality habitats tend to feature mosaic-like grassy vegetation with alternating areas of tall and short growth and bare areas, with perches. In agricultural areas it occupies neglected overgrown patches, heaths, open downs, overgrown orchards and gardens, hedgerows, and scrub along railways or roadsides. It is also found in temporary steppe-like habitats, such as military training areas, burned forests, forest clearings and spruce (Picea) plantations (Yosef et al. 2012). Egg-laying occurs from May to July (Lefranc and Worfolk 1997) and clutches are generally three to seven eggs. The untidy-looking nest is  a loose foundation of often green plant stems, roots, grass, lichen, hair, or similar, compactly lined with grass, hair, moss, fur, reed (Phragmites) or reedmace (Typha) flowerheads, plant down and similar material, situated in dense, often thorny bush such as hawthorn (Crataegus), blackthorn (Prunus spinosa), bramble (Rubus) or dog-rose (Rosa) (Yosef et al. 2012). It is an opportunistic feeder, feeding mostly on insects and other invertebrates as well as small mammals, birds, amphibians and reptiles. The species is migratory, wintering in eastern and southern Africa (Lefranc and Worfolk 1997).


Declines are probably due mainly to the loss and fragmentation of habitat resulting from afforestation and agricultural intensification, and the increased use of pesticides causing loss of food resources (Yosef et al. 2012). The heavy application of inorganic nitrogen fertilizer causing the earlier and denser growth of vegetation may also be a threat (Tucker and Heath 1994). In northern and western edges of range, its breeding is affected by cooler, wetter summers (Yosef et al. 2012).

Conservation actions

Conservation Actions Underway

Bern Convention Appendix II. EU Birds Directive Annex I.

Conservation Actions Proposed

The species requires wide-scale habitat conservation through the promotion of low intensity farming. Management should include the conservation or creation of open grasslands with a mixture of tall and low vegetation and thorny bushes, conservation of hedges and bushes bordering fields, the planting of bushes in intensively managed orchards and vineyards and the maintenance of fallow areas. In addition the linking of suitable habitat fragments by a series of protected areas would likely benefit the species. The use of broad-spectrum pesticides should also be reduced (Tucker and Heath 1994).


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

Recommended citation
BirdLife International (2019) Species factsheet: Lanius collurio. Downloaded from on 21/03/2019. Recommended citation for factsheets for more than one species: BirdLife International (2019) IUCN Red List for birds. Downloaded from on 21/03/2019.