One of the breeding males of this season. © Marc Gálvez / Trenca

With 4 pairs of lesser grey shrike that were formed this season and a total of 69 chicks incorporated into the nature, 2014 gives more hope for the conservation of this bird. It only breeds in the Plain of Lleida and is in danger of extinction in the Iberian Peninsula.


Last Spring, after making their migratory trip, 9 adults of lesser grey shrike (Lanius minor) arrived to the Segrià regional district, in Lleida: 7 born in the captive breeding programme and released in previous years and 2 born into the wild. 4 pairs were formed. One of them raised 6 chicks; another one, 5 chicks; the third one failed (a nest intervention was made to remove their 2 chicks); an the fourth one, the last found pair, probably tried to breed. The existence of 4 pairs in 2014 is a great new, as in previous years (2011, 2012 and 2013) there was only a breeding pair in the Plain of Lleida (the only one in the whole Iberian Peninsula).

Banded lesser grey shrike chick. © Marc Gálvez / Trenca

Nest of one of the breeding pairs in 2014. © Marc Gálvez / Trenca

With regards to the chicks production of this season, 58 chicks were released using hacking technique (57 born in the breeding centre of Vallcalent and 1 of the chicks from the pair that was not breeding well). If we add the 11 chicks raised by the pairs in the wild, weget a total of 69 chicks that have been incorporated into the wild. A record in the lesser grey shrike conservation programme, a a great number compared with the total of 34 that could be incorporated in 2013 or 39 in 2012.

Crane used for nest interventions. © Marc Gálvez / Trenca

Right the moment when lesser grey shrikes born in captivity are left in one of the hacking facilities. © Jose Guerra / Trenca

Two nest interventions were made. The first one was made to exchange the chicks from the pair of adults born into the wild for other chicks born in captivity. The pair adopted them immediately. The chicks from the parents born into the wild joined the breeding programme, thus getting a genetic replacement which is very important for the programme. The second intervention was made in relation with the pair that was nor breeding well. They had got only two chicks, with a weight too low for their age. The chicks were removed from the nest and raised at the captive breeding centre of Vallcalent. One of them died and the other was released some days later together with other chicks born in captivity.

The lesser grey shrike (Lanius minor) is a migratory species, that leaves our area in August to the South of Africa. From 15 August on, it was clearly noticed that the chicks born this year started to disappear from the breeding area. Along the second half of August, little by little, almost all of the remaining individuals were disappearing. In these first days of September the last lesser grey shrikes leave the area (both adults and juveniles).

Another hacking facility. On the top of the facility, there are lesser grey shrikes born in captivity that have already been free for several days around the area. © Trenca

The project for the conservation of the lesser grey shrike is an initiative promoted by the Departament of Agriculture, Livestock, Fisheries, Food and Natural Environment of the Autonomic Government of Catalonia (Generalitat de Catalunya). Both the Wildlife Centre of Vallcalent (Department of Agriculture) and the Zoo of Barcelona carry out the ex situ conservation programme, that is, outside the natural habitat. Trenca Association is responsible for doing the in situ conservation work, on the field (habitat management, wild population monitoring, predators control in the breeding area, reintroduction of individuals, etc.) as well as bringing more staff to support the captive breeding centre during the breeding season. To carry out the in situ actions, a land stewardship agreement has been signed with owners of land that is very important for the species. The project is further supported, financially and logistically, by public and private entities.

For further information on this project please check the section Conservation of the Lesser Grey Shrike (Lanius minor) in Spain on this website.