Vineyards harbour a relict population of Lesser Grey Shrike (Lanius minor) in Mediterranean France

Lesser Grey Shrike (Lanius minor) Science Article 1


Modem agriculture contributed to the decline of many bird species through habitat degradation or habitat loss during the second half of the 20th century in western Europe. Areas where traditional agriculture has been maintained still allow many species to breed and survive, some of them now being considered as greatly threatened. The Lesser Grey Shrike (Lanius minor) is among the most threatened breeding bird species in western Europe. In France, a relict population of 50-60 pairs still breeds at two sites in the Mediterranean area where, each year, the species spends the three months necessary to conduct its breeding cycle (this shrike is a long-distance migrant overwintering in southern Africa). The pairs nest in tall trees, isolated or in rows and, more importantly, depend on vineyards associated with grassy fallows. In one of these two sites west of Montpellier (Mediterranean France; 43 deg 36’N, 3 deg 53’E), a study of the land use around the nests showed the predominance of vineyards (range: 37.3 %-79.8 %) followed by fallows (10.8 %-48.2 %), and small orchards and gardens (0.5 %-7.5 %). What seems essential is that vineyards and fallows occur in a mosaic arrangement of small plots. Birds take their prey in both habitats but mostly in fallows. To secure the conservation of this shrike and other species sharing the same breeding habitats, efforts should be made to maintain the mosaic land use system prevailing in that wine-growing area.

Paul Isenmann and Gabriel Debout, J. Omithol. 141,435-440 (2000)

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