One of the lesser grey shrike pairs of this season. © Marc Gálvez / Trenca

After a number of years with only one breeding pair in the whole lberian Peninsula, always at the Segrià regional district (Lleida), this season we have got three pairs. A great new, as this species is the most threatened vertebrate in the Spanish State.


The lesser grey shrike (Lanius minor) is an insectivorous and migratory species, that leaves our area in August to the South of Africa and comes back the following spring. Within the conservation programme for this bird, captive breeding is carried out in the Wildlife Centre of Vallcalent, with the support of the Zoo of Barcelona. Thus, some chicks born in captivity are released every year to strenghten the wild population. In total, out of the 7 adult individuals that this spring arrived to the Plain of Lleida, 5 were born in captivity and released in previous years, a relevant data on the important role of captive breeding in the conservation of this bird in Catalonia and Spain.

Getting the facilities ready for hacking release of chicks born in captivity. © Trenca

Chicks born into the wild in 2014. © Jose Guerra / Trenca

The field work of the conservation project of this season is being carried out normally. Last habitat reconditioning works were carried out, so that habitat would be optimal for the lesser grey shrikes to hunt insects; 4 facilities were prepared for the hacking release of chicks born in captivity (they stay in here for about a week, observing the natural environment around them); individuals breeding into the wild are being monitored, as well as the chicks born in captivity that have been released thoroughout the month of July, etc.

In total, wild lesser grey shrike breeding pairs have raised 11 chicks. On the other hand, 45 chicks born in captivity have been already released in the same area where lesser grey shrikes are breeding (very good data compared, for instance, with the 29 chicks that could be released last year) and it is expected to release some more before the end of the season.

Monitoring released chicks born in captivity. © Trenca

Extra food (trays with insects) is provided. © Jose Guerra / Trenca

All together, the three wild breeding pairs, with 11 chicks, and the high number of chicks born in captivity that are beeing released, makes this year particularly good for lesser grey shrikes and and raises hopes regarding the conservation of this species.

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 land owners. 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.