Red-backed shrike

The Red-backed shrike (Lanius collurio) is a medium-sized passerine bird. Its beak is hooked, like that of a bird of prey, reflecting its predatory nature. If the female is duller, the adult male is easily identifiable: grey head with a typicalblack stripe through the eye, reddish upperparts, salmon pink underparts.

The genus name, Lanius, is derived from the Latin word for “butcher” because of the feeding habits of the bird. In fact, shrikes are known for their habit of catching insects and small vertebrates and impaling their bodies on thorns, the spikes on barbed-wire fences or any available sharp point. This helps them to tear the flesh into smaller, more conveniently sized fragments, and serves as a cache so that the shrike can return to the uneaten portions at a later time.

The red-backed shrike lives in open countrysides with hedges and thorny bushes (blackthorn, hawthorn, dog rose) where it can nest. This open environment enables the bird to locate more easily its preys.

The red-backed shrike is a bioindicator species: it lives in a rich environment with an abundant entomofauna. The decline of the species is due to changing agricultural pratices, in particular hedge removal and increased use of pesticides. However, the Massif Central, where extensive breeding is still practiced, has been less impacted by these changes and the area is a refuge zone for this bird.

Pie-grièche écorcheur