Lanius collurio (Linnaeus, 1758)
Family: Passeriformes > Laniidae
Red-backed Shrike was effectively lost as a breeding species in the 1990s, following a longer period of decline. It is now a scarce visitor, most often reported during May to June and August to October.
The loss of Red-backed Shrike from Britain has been linked to changing agricultural practices and habitat loss, because of which populations of favoured large invertebrate prey have been much diminished.
Red-backed Shrike identification is often straightforward.
Listen to example recordings of the main vocalisations of Red-backed Shrike, provided by xeno-canto contributors.
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Status and Trends
Population size and trends and patterns of distribution based on BTO surveys and atlases with data collected by BTO volunteers.
This species can be found on the following statutory and conservation listings and schedules.
The Red-backed Shrike was a widespread breeding species in the UK but experienced substantial declines during the 19th and 20th centuries and became effectively extinct as a UK breeding bird in 1989, although since 2004 very small numbers have again bred in most years (Davies & Lock 2016). The species is monitored by the Rare Breeding Birds Panel, with a mean of just four breeding pairs reported over the five-year period 2015–2019 (Eaton et al. 2021).
During Bird Atlas 2007–11
Occupied 10-km squares in UK
|No. occupied in breeding season||13|
|% occupied in breeding season||0.4|
|No. occupied in winter||1|
|% occupied in winter||0.03|
European Distribution Map
Red-backed Shrikes underwent an extensive range contraction through the late 20th century, dwindling to one pair in the 1990s.
|% change in range in breeding season (1968–72 to 2008–11)||-88.3%|
Red-backed Shrike is a very rare breeder, with most records relating to passage migrants in May/June and in August to October.
Information about movement and migration based on online bird portals (e.g. BirdTrack), Ringing schemes and tracking studies.
An overview of year-round movements for the whole of Europe can be seen on the EuroBirdPortal viewer.
Lifecycle and body size information about Red-backed Shrike, including statistics on nesting, eggs and lifespan based on BTO ringing and nest recording data.
|Wing Length||Adults||95.5±2 | Range 92–98mm, N=74|
|Juveniles||93.6±1.4 | Range 91.5-95.5mm, N=20|
|Males||96.2±1.6 | Range 93–99mm, N=38|
|Females||94.8±2.1 | Range 92–98mm, N=36|
|Body Weight||Adults||28.5±2.38 | Range 24.1–32.5g, N=74|
|Males||28.3±2.41 | Range 23.4–33.0g, N=38|
|Females||28.6±2.38 | Range 24.2–32.5g, N=36|
Feather measurements and photos on featherbase
|Field Codes||2-letter: ED | 5-letter code: REBSH | Euring: 15150|
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Interpretation and scientific publications about Red-backed Shrike from BTO scientists.
Causes of change
The reasons for the decline in Britain are unclear, although poor breeding performance is not thought to have driven the decline (Tryjanowski et al. 2006). Factors affecting the population may have including agriculatural intensification and hence a reduction in scrubby habitat and large invertebrates, and egg-collecting and other human distrubance; habitat managment and recreation may be important (along with other actions) to increase the likelihood that Red-backed Shrike can recolonise the UK (see review by Davies & Lock 2016). A study of six European populations found that warmer summer weather was correlated with breeding success and hence suggests climate change could possibly benefit the species in the future, although note that the study did not assess the effects of more extreme weather and also cautioned that other factors such as habitat and predation may be more important drivers in some populations (Søgaard Jørgensen et al. 2013).
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