Tuesday, 8 February 2011

Woodchat shrike

Lanius senator

(Photo from Rflx-s)

Common name:

Order Passeriformes
Family Laniidae

The woodchat shrike mostly breeds in the Iberian Peninsula, but they can be found throughout the Mediterranean basin, from Iberia and Morocco in the west to the Balkans, Turkey and Israel and through the Caucasus into northern Iran. They winter in sub-Saharan Africa, throughout the Sahel belt, from western Africa to Ethiopia, Eritrea and the extreme south-west of the Arabian Peninsula.

These birds are 18-19 cm long and have a wingspan of 26-28 cm. They weigh up to 50 g.

They mostly breed in areas of scattered trees and tall bushes, namely in the cork and Holm oak woodlands of Spain and Portugal. During the winter they occupy dry forest and rainforest clearings, as well as thorny bush savannas.

Woodchat shrikes mostly hunt large invertebrates and small vertebrates, including beetles, grasshoppers, cicadas and crickets, but also ants, butterflies, caterpillars, snails, earthworms, centipedes, spiders, mice, small birds, lizards and frogs. Exceptionally they also take berries and other fruits.

These birds start breeding in May-June. The nest is a compact, semi-spherical bowl made of stems, branches and twigs, with the interior lined with fine materials such as feathers and the inflorescences of small plants. There the female lays 5-6 eggs, which she incubates alone for 18 days. Both parents feed the chicks until fledging, which takes place 15 days after hatching.

IUCN status - LC (Least Concern)
Although the woodchat shrike is believed to be facing a widespread decline owing to various factors, they have a global population of 2-7 millions and a very large breeding range which justify the species not being considered threatened at present.

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