Lesser Grey Shrike (Lanius minor)

Lesser Grey Shrike

[order] PASSERIFORMES | [family] Laniidae | [latin] Lanius minor | [UK] Lesser Grey Shrike | [FR] Pie-grieche a poitrine rose | [DE] Schwarzstirn-Wurger | [ES] Alcaudon chico | [NL] Kleine Klapekster


Monotypic species

Physical charateristics

Medium-sized to large but not strikingly long shrike, with rather stubby bill, apparently black face-mask, wide white bar across primaries, and wide white edges to tail.
Upperparts ashy-blue-grey, a little paler on rump and faintly trimmed whitish along outside of scapulars. wings black, with wide white patch on base of primaries and whitish tips to tertials, inner secondaries, and primaries. Tail-feathers black on 3 central pairs, black ended on 4th pair, white on others.

Listen to the sound of Lesser Grey Shrike

[audio:http://www.aviflevoland.nl/sounddb/L/Lesser Grey Shrike.mp3]

Copyright remark: Most sounds derived from xeno-canto

wingspan min.: 32 cm wingspan max.: 35 cm
size min.: 19 cm size max.: 21 cm
incubation min.: 0 days incubation max.: 0 days
fledging min.: 0 days fledging max.: 0 days
broods: 0   eggs min.: 0  
      eggs max.: 0  


Eurasia : Central


Breeds in middle continental latitudes of west Palearctic, in temperate, Mediterranean, and steppe climates. Require for warmer and more benign climate, and open habitat with plenty of scattered or grouped trees and bushes.
Requires drier and sunnier conditions than other European Lanius, possibly connected with more specialized diet of large insects.


Breeding starts May-June in Hungary, end of May in Turkey, early May to early July in Southern European USSR. Nest site is on a lateral branch up to 4 m from trunk of tree, in fork or in crown, generally at good height above ground.
Nest is well-made structure with loose foundation of twigs, grass, rootlets, string, etc., often with high proportion of green plant stems, especially of aromatic species, with leaves and flowers attached. Lined with rootlets, hair, feathers, etc.,though often completely without lining.
Clutch size 5-6 eggs, incubation for 15-16 days, by female only.

Feeding habits

Almost wholly insects, mainly beetles. Hunts principally from exposed look out perch up to 6 m high, flying down to take insects on ground below. Will use many perches throughout breeding territory, chief requirements being all-round view plus good sight of ground. Can spot invertebrates in vegetation 15 m away, also takes flying insects and very rarely birds.


This species has an extremely large range, and hence does not approach the thresholds for Vulnerable under the range size criterion (Extent of Occurrence <20,000 km2 combined with a declining or fluctuating range size, habitat extent/quality, or population size and a small number of locations or severe fragmentation). Despite the fact that the population trend appears to be decreasing, the decline is not believed to be sufficiently rapid to approach the thresholds for Vulnerable under the population trend criterion (>30% decline over ten years or three generations). The population size is extremely large, and hence does not approach the thresholds for Vulnerable under the population size criterion (<10,000 mature individuals with a continuing decline estimated to be >10% in ten years or three generations, or with a specified population structure). For these reasons the species is evaluated as Least Concern.
Lanius minor is a widespread but patchily distributed summer visitor to much of
southern and eastern Europe, which constitutes >50% of its global breeding range.
Its European breeding population is large (>620,000 pairs), but underwent a moderate
decline between 1970-1990. Although certain populations were stable or increased
during 1990-2000, there were widespread declines across most of Europe?including
in the Romanian stronghold?and the species underwent a moderate decline (>10%)
This shrike inhabits Europe and Western Asia, from north-eastern Spain to the Altai mountains. The northern limit of its distribution reach 55N. It is a species of the steppe, adapted to cultivation with isolated trees, but it depends largely also on warm dry summers. It winters totally in sub-Saharan Africa, mainly in Botswana, Namibia, Zimbabwe and South Africa. As a passage migrant it is known in Greece. Since the second half of last century it undergoes a dramatic decline throughout Western Europe. It has become extinct in Luxembourg, Belgium, Germany and a large part of France. The population of the European Union is totalling about 2100 breeding pairs, which comprises 2.5% of the total European population, Russia not included. The decline has been attributed to the fact that the climate is becoming more humid in Western Europe and drier in its winter quarters, but the main reasons are intensification of agriculture and increasing use of pesticides
Lesser Grey Shrike status Least Concern


Migratory, entire breeding population wintering in southern Africa, from extreme southern Angola and Namibia east to southern Mozambique and parts of South Africa.
Loop migrant, with spring passage further east than autumn. In autumn, birds from west of range head south or south-east over Greece and Aegean Sea, to enter Africa on narrow front principally through Egypt. On-going passage mainly between c. 20 degrees E and Lake Victoria, requiring change of heading to west of south. Spring passage further east (in Zimbabwe chiefly east of c. 30 degrees E, in autumn mainly west of this longitude) with higher numbers in East Africa, and main exodus apparently via Ethiopia and Somalia continuing through Middle East. Movement begins in central and western Europe late July to August, with peak in mid- to late August and stragglers into October. Crosses Aegean Sea mid-August to end of September, and passage in Cyprus late July to beginning of October. Arrives in Egypt from early August, with late birds early October to late November. Arrives in winter quarters from late October (Zimbabwe) to late November (Cape Province, South Africa).
Present in southern Africa until late March (exceptionally early April); main passage in Zambia first half of April. Widespread in Ethiopia and Somalia end of March to mid-May. Passage through Israel, Jordan, Iraq, and Syria mid-April to mid-May. Arrives on central European breeding grounds from early May.
In Britain and Ireland, 103 records 1958-89, mid-May to end of July (peaking end of May and beginning of June) and fewer mid-August to mid-November; roughly equal numbers in spring and autumn on Shetland and east coast. Annual in southern Sweden: 129 up to 1988, great majority May-August. Regular in Denmark, where at least 1 record almost every year 1965-88, generally May-August.

Distribution map

Lesser Grey Shrike distribution range map

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