The Lesser Grey Shrike (Lanius minor) is the most threatened vertebrate in the Spanish State. The last breeding population in the Iberian Peninsula is only located in Lleida, in the Segrià regional district.
In the year 2001 the Lesser Grey Shrike became extinct in the province of Girona. In 2010 became extinct in the province of Huesca and only one pair bred in the Plain of Lleida, the only one in the whole Spanish State. The Lesser Grey Shrike is a migrating species, that leaves our area in August to the South of Africa and comes back the following spring. During 2011, 2012 and 2013 springs, they continued coming back in a very few number and only one breeding pair was formed every year, always in the Plain of Lleida, the only one in the whole Iberian Peninsula.
This year, however, we could confirm so far the arrival of 5 individuals and the formation of two breeding pairs, a very good new. The first shrike of the season was observed on 16 May (there is a previous report, but that would need to be confirmed), and the fifth shrike was observed on 5 June for the first time.
From those 5 individuals, one is a male born into the wild in the area in 2011; one is a new female, that was not seen in previous years; one is a female born in captivity and released by hacking in 2011; and the other two individuals are two males also born in captivity and released both through hacking in 2013. This is to say, 3 from the 5 individuals of the current Iberian population are birds that were born in captivity, released and successfully incorporated into the wild.
One of the pairs is formed by the male born in the area in 2011 (who was the breeding male of the 2013 pair) and the new female (maybe the pair was already formed in other area or country, and the female came with the male when he was coming back to his breeding home area). The other pair is formed by the female born in captivity and released in 2011 (who was the breeding female of the 2013 pair) and one of the males born in captivity and released in 2013. The two pairs are building their nest and displaying breeding behaviour at the moment.
Moreover, the captive breeding programme carried out since 2009 in the Wildlife Centre of Vallcalent, with the suport of the Zoo of Barcelona, is going on. This is a pioneering experience with regards to this species. As it was said before, it has been achieved that chicks born in captivity and released live freely in the wild, migrate and come back next season, and finally form a pair and breed, thus increasing the wild population. This year, the first chicks have already born at Vallcalent.
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. 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.