Woodchat Shrike Lanius senator


Justification of Red List Category

This species has been declining for many decades and continues to face considerable threats due to habitat degradation from agricultural intensification and afforestation, fires, long-term climatic factors and potentially hunting. Monitoring of the European population estimates the recent rate of this reduction at around 25% over 10 years, a rate that approaches the threatened threshold. With the majority of the global population breeding in Europe, it is inferred that this moderately rapid rate of decline is affecting the whole population. As such, Woodchat Shrike is assessed as Near Threatened.

Population justification
The European population is estimated at 1,930,000–3,120,000 pairs, which equates to 3,860,000–6,240,000 mature individuals (BirdLife International 2021). Europe forms 65% of the global range, so a very preliminary estimate of the global population size is 5,940,000-9,610,000 mature individuals.
The European population is declining at a rate of c. 25% over 10 years (BirdLife International 2021) and it is inferred from this and the observation that the threats considered to be driving this reduction are widespread through the range and ongoing, that there is a continuing decline in the global population.

Trend justification
The population is undergoing moderate declines throughout its range, particularly following widespread declines late in the 20th century (Harris and Franklin 2000). Newly collated information indicates that the European population is declining at a rate of c. 25% over 10 years (BirdLife International 2021). This reflects the population decline reported by the Pan-European Common Bird Monitoring Scheme (European Bird Census Council [EBCC] 2018), and the 8.6% range contraction (at 50-km grid scale) since the 1980s reported in the 2nd European Breeding Bird Atlas (Keller et al. 2020). Europe holds c. 65% of the global breeding range, and possibly an even higher proportion of the global population, with Spain alone holding >90% of the total European population (BirdLife International 2021). The species has been declining for many decades and continues to face considerable threats due to habitat degradation from agricultural intensification and afforestation, fires, long-term climatic factors and potentially hunting (although population impacts of hunting on the species are unknown) (Tucker and Heath 1994, Hagemeijer and Blair 1997, Yosef and ISWG International Shrike Working Group 2020). These threats are expected to continue in the future. The species is also considered very local or extinct across some parts of its range and is listed under national threatened categories in many countries (Yosef and ISWG International Shrike Working Group 2020). While population trend data from outside Europe are scarce and standard monitoring is absent throughout much of the species' range (K.A. Boyla in litt. 2022), it is assumed that the global population is likely to be undergoing similar rates of decline to that of the European population, and therefore the rate of population reduction overall is placed within the band of 20-29% over 10 years.

Distribution and population

The species is migratory with four recognised subspecies. The nominate L. s. senator breeds in lowland southern Europe from Portugal east to western Turkey and  L. s. rultians breeds in North Africa (Morocco to Libya): both winter in Central Africa and the latter may be best merged with nominate. L. s. badius is restricted to islands in the western Mediterranean, wintering in West Africa, while L. s. niloticus breeds on Cyprus, and from eastern Turkey and Caucasia, Syria, Lebanon, Jordan, Israel, Palestine, northern Iraq, Kuwait, and Iran, wintering in East Africa and rarely in SW Arabia (Yosef and ISWG 2020).

The European breeding range (at 50-km grid scale) has contracted by 8.6% since the 1980s (Keller et al. 2020), from which a continuing decline in the Area of Occupancy is inferred. This range reduction is attributed to habitat degradation due to agricultural intensification and afforestation, hunting, fires, and changes in weather patterns.


This species requires shrub-like or arboreal cover, open ground offering rich supply of large insects, and perches with commanding view of area. It is commonly found in semi-open areas with bushes and well-spaced trees, such as open woodland, old orchards, olive (Olea) groves, gardens, and parks or hedgerows with large thorny bushes; in Greece it prefers open pine (Pinus) forest. In many areas it occurs in cultivated country with trees; and in the north of its range it is a typical bird of old traditional orchards, particularly when sheep or cattle present (Yosef and ISWG 2020). Studies have found that species occurrence can be associated with specific habitat traits; isolated trees, shrubland, and olive groves can for example have positive effects, whereas dirt roads have negative responses (Brambilla et al. 2017). Egg-laying occurs from the end of April through to July. The nest site is chosen by the male and both sexes build the nest (Lefranc and Worfolk 1997), which is a compact open cup made from twigs and roots and other plant material, lined with rootlets, hair, wool, moss, lichen and spider web. It is generally placed on a lateral branch of a tree, often fruit tree or oak, pine or poplar or in the Mediterranean area, in low dense brush. Clutches are four to eight eggs (Yosef and ISWG 2020). It feeds principally on insects but other invertebrates, voles, mice, lizards, frogs and occasionally plant material such as berries are also taken (Lefranc and Worfolk 1997). The species is migratory, wintering in Africa south of the Sahara but north of the equator and in small numbers in southern Arabia (Yosef and ISWG 2020).


Loss and degradation of habitat through agricultural intensification, afforestation, and large fires are the main threats to this species (Yosef and ISWG 2020). The abandonment of traditional charcoal-making, the canalization of rivers and heavy use of herbicides and insecticides are also threats (Tucker and Heath 1994). Long-term climatic changes resulting in wetter springs have caused the range of the species to contract southwards (Hagemeijer and Blair 1997). It is hunted around ponds in summer and on migration in Italy. A decline in insect prey across breeding areas may also be responsible for population reductions (N. Baccetti in litt. 2022). In addition, drought in the Sahel and changes to agricultural practices in its wintering grounds may lead to long term population declines (Tucker and Heath 1994).

Conservation actions

Conservation Actions Underway
Bern Convention Appendix II. The species is legally protected in most countries in which it breeds; in some listed as "highly endangered", in others regarded as "vulnerable" or "endangered" on national Red Lists (Yosef and ISWG International Shrike Working Group 2020). Most recently the species has been assessed as vulnerable in Armenia (Aghababyan and Khachatryan 2021). It may however be considered of low extinction risk in some countries; for example, the species is considered Least Concern in Georgia (Paposhvili et al. 2021).

Conservation Actions Proposed
Traditional management of pastoral woodland and livestock-rearing, old orchards and Mediterranean scrub and the prevention of hunting would benefit this species (Tucker and Heath 1994, Yosef and ISWG 2020). The use of herbicides and insecticides should be controlled, soil-rotation practices used and unploughed field margins with boundaries of trees, shrubs and herbaceous vegetation should be maintained. In addition the diversification of monoculture crops and the maintenance of woodland at roadsides in rural areas and in irrigated cereal cultivation would benefit the species. Restrictions on hunting should be enforced (Tucker and Heath 1994, Yosef and ISWG 2020).


Text account compilers
Martin, R., Fernando, E.

Ashpole, J, Baccetti, N., Boyla, K., Butchart, S., Ekstrom, J., Grice, H., Paposhvili, N., Piggott, A., Rutherford, C.A., Staneva, A. & Wheatley, H.

Recommended citation
BirdLife International (2023) Species factsheet: Lanius senator. Downloaded from http://datazone.birdlife.org/species/factsheet/woodchat-shrike-lanius-senator on 04/06/2023. Recommended citation for factsheets for more than one species: BirdLife International (2023) IUCN Red List for birds. Downloaded from http://datazone.birdlife.org on 04/06/2023.