Woodchat Shrike (Lanius senator)

Woodchat Shrike

Passeriformes Laniidae Woodchat Shrike (Lanius senator)

[order] Passeriformes | [family] Laniidae | [latin] Lanius senator | [UK] Woodchat Shrike | [FR] Pie-grièche à tête rousse | [DE] Rotkopfwürger | [ES] Alcaudón Común | [IT] Averla capirossa | [NL] Roodkopklauwier

Physical charateristics

Medium-sized, somewhat skulking shrike, with adult almost totally pied except for chestnut rear crown and hindneck but immature intermediate in appearance between immature Lesser Grey Shrike, and ‘red tailed’ shrikes, particularly Red-backed Shrike.
Male has center of forehead, forecrown, lower lore, and broad patch around eye and over ear-coverts black, with small white spot on rear crown, nape, and uper mantle. Rest of mantle brown-black, with cream-white scapulars which form on sides of back most conspicuous patch of all shrikes, back grey, rump and upper tail-coverts white. Tail black, with fringes and tis increasingly white from center to edge but not particularly bold. Wings brown-black, with quite broad white patch across base of primaries and white tips to tertials and secondaries.
Sexes dissimilar, little seasonal variation.

wingspan min.: 25 cm wingspan max.: 27 cm
size min.: 17 cm size max.: 19 cm
incubation min.: 14 days incubation max.: 15 days
fledging min.: 15 days fledging max.: 18 days
broods: 1   eggs min.: 5  
      eggs max.: 6  


Lanius senator is a widespread summer visitor to much of southern and central Europe,
which constitutes >50% of its global breeding range. Its European breeding population
is large (>480,000 pairs), but underwent a large decline between 1970-1990. Although
some populations—notably in south-east Europe—were stable or increased during
1990-2000, the species continued to decline across most of its European range,
including in its Spanish stronghold, and underwent a moderate decline (>10%) overall.

Listen to the sound of Woodchat Shrike

Copyright remark: Most sounds derived from xeno-canto


Breeds in west Palerctic in middle and lower middle latitudes mainly in Mediterranean climatic zone, but extending in west into temperate zone, and in S-E to edge of steppe and desert. On plain and lower slopes of large open valleys and requiring fairly tall trees, these must be well spaced in open woodland, garden, or meadows, with plenty of room between lower branches and ground, which should either be bare or carry only very low plant cover. Also occupies roadside trees, woodland margins near cultivation, and parks or hedges with large thorny bushes.

Foraging habits

Mainly insects and other invertebrates, principally beetles, occasionally small vertebrates.
Perches on exposed look-out from which drops or glides down onto ground prey or makes sallying flights after flying insects.

copyright youtube

Breeding habits

Breeding starts May to mid July in Germany, mid May to early July in France, late April-May in Spain, early May to late June in Greece, late April to late May in Algeria and late March to mid June in Israel. Nest site always in trees, especially fruit trees and olive in fork of trunk. Nest is a strong cup of leafy plant material and roots lined with wool, hair, fine roots, cobwebs, moss, and lichen. 5-6 eggs are laid, incubation lasts 14-15 days performed by female, rarely also by male.


This species has a large range, with an estimated global Extent of Occurrence of 1,000,000-10,000,000 km². It has a large global population, including an estimated 960,000-2,400,000 individuals in Europe (BirdLife International in prep.). Global population trends have not been quantified, but the species is not believed to approach the thresholds for the population decline criterion of the IUCN Red List (i.e. declining more than 30% in ten years or three generations). For these reasons, the species is evaluated as Least Concern. (source Birdlife.org)

Woodchat Shrike status Least Concern


Migratory, wintering in sub-Saharan Africa north of Equator, and in small numbers (perhaps regular) in southern Arabia. Autumn movement probably broad-front in south to south-west direction; recorded in smaller numbers than in spring, presumably due chiefly to unbroken flights. Spring movement conspicuous throughout North Africa and Mediterranean, slower progression probably contributing to impression of seasonal difference in numbers.
Leaves European breeding grounds in second half of August or beginning of September (July to early October), adults before juveniles. Arrives in winter quarters August-October, mainly September. Departure from winter quarters protracted, February-May. Passage through Mediterranean area late March to early June, with main arrival on northern breeding grounds around mid-May.
Annual vagrant to Britain and Ireland, with average c. 14 birds (4-24) per year; peak period late May or early June and late August or early September. Annual vagrant in Netherlands, especially May-June with some August-September.

Distribution map breeding season

Woodchat Shrike range map summer


Title Reproductive success of the Woodchat Shrike (Lanius senator) in Western Bulgaria
Author(s): B. P. Nikolov
Abstract: The Woodchat Shrike (Lanius senator) is a passerin..[more]..
Source: Ornis Fennica 82:73-80. 2005

download full text (pdf)

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *