[order] Passeriformes | [family] Laniidae | [latin] Lanius meridionalis | [UK] Southern Grey Shrike | [FR] Pie-grièche meridional | [DE] Steppenwürger | [ES] Alcaudón meridional | [IT] Averla meridionale | [NL] Steppeklapekster

Steppeklapekster determination

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Southern grey shrike and Great grey shrike (lanius excubitor) are now recognised as different species. Not only do they differ in some plumage details, but also in size, voice, behaviour and favoured habitat. Lanius meridionalis has larger tarsi and a more powerful beak than lanius excubitor. It has darker back with a brownish tinge in nape and crown. White supercilium rarely extends beyond the eye and blends into forehead. The underparts of meridionalis are pinkish grey, while excubitor's are white, or with a light grey wash. The eyepatch of Southern grey shrike is generally larger, standing out in sharper contrast with white cheeks and rest of underparts. It has a conspicuous white wingbar. Black tail is long, with white outer feathers. Legs and feet are blackish. Slightly hooked bill is black. Both sexes are similar, with long and compact body and large head. Juvenile is similar to adults after lost of down. They are slightly streaked brown on breast.
Southern grey shrike perches on exposed and prominent tree or on wires or high perch where it spends most of time. While is perched, it moves the tail up and down, with its large head bowed down to the ground. This perch allows it to search some prey on ground, among weeds. Then, it dashes aggressively to the prey. It may hunt in flight, pursuing small birds and killing them. Southern grey shrike hunts scorpion, dancing round it while is waiting for the good moment to peck its sting, and then, it eats its prey. This species, as the other shrikes, share the habit of impaling their preys on thorn "larders". In fact, shrikes impale preys on thorn because are not able to hang on to their prey with claws, as a raptor. So, it impales the prey by the head on thorn, and strongly, it strips off pieces of the dead animal. Males of Southern grey shrike seem to be fairly loyal to their breeding area, so it is the females that are more likely to roam further.

Southern grey shrike favours open country of various kinds, from semi-desert to farmland, and from health and bogs to partly forest tundra, with scattered trees, bushes or scrubs. It needs open areas with lots of lookout points. GEOGRAPHIC RANGE: Southern grey shrike breeds in Spain, except Galicia, Cantabrian coasts and the Balearics, and in Southern France. They are residents, with only some occasional short distance movements.

Populations are not globally threatened. But habitat loss with fragmentation of forests is a threat for this species. Agricultural development with the use of pesticides reduces populations of big insects which are eaten by Southern grey shrike.
7 races recognized in west Palearctic. In main part of range (North Africa) variation strongly clinal, with palest birds (L. m. elegans) in desert areas in south, darkest birds (L. m. algeriensis) in north. L. m. pallidirostris, from lower Volga, also pale, with extensive white on wings and pale bill. Nominate meridionalis, from Europe, much darker than North African races; koenigi, of Canary Islands, almost as dark. L. m. aucheri of Middle East, extending into north-east Africa, intermediate in colour between algeriensis and elegans.

Large insects, chiefly beetles, small mammals, reptiles, and birds. Main hunting strategy waiting and watching from high vantage point, may turn around in complete circle while watching and frequently flies to new look-out. Flying insects, especially large Hymenoptera and beetles, taken after flight vertically upwards or pursued in direct flight. Vertebrate on gound can bi spotted at 250 m. After swooping flight and vertica drop lands near vertebrate prey, covering any remaining distance in fluttering hops, strikes prey with bill at back of head without grasping with feet, sometimes striking repeatedly while dancing round to avoid bites. Prey killed by biting through spinal cord and neck. More bites may be delivered after death, then prey lifted in bill to be wedged or impaled for dismemberment of storage.

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 estimated to be 5,000,000-10,000,000 individuals (Harris and Franklin 2000). Global population trends have not been quantified; there is evidence of a population decline (Harris and Franklin 2000), 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. [conservation status from birdlife.org]

Southern grey shrike's nest is situated at 3 to 5 metres above the ground, but also in a bush, at only one metre high, hidden in the tree or the bush. They can make the nest always in the same tree, year after year. Nest is relatively large, and built by both adults, male carrying material nest. Base is made with dry twigs, and they add a lot of moss. Then, they make a bulky structure with grasses, and lined with rootlets, wool, hair and feathers. Female lays 5 to 6 greyish spotted dusk or reddish eggs. Incubation lasts about 15 days, by both adults, but more by female. Young fledge at 19-20 days, fed by parents until they are 35 to 37 days old. This species produces one brood per season, two if first lost.

Many populations sedentary, some partially migratory; nominate meridionalis probably partially migratory, showing both erratic displacements (e.g. post-breeding wanderings in south-east France and Extremadura) and perhaps a regular migration of small numbers as far as North Africa via Straits of Gibraltar; however, most populations probably resident. Very rare vagrant to central France and north-west Europe. Birds in North Africa disperse in winter to unknown extent, but probably mainly sedentary; in Tunisia, some movement possible from inland areas to coast; numbers in south-east Morocco increase slightly outside breeding season and migratory movement reported in extreme west; Saharan race elegans common in winter in lower Sénégal, some reaching Gambia. Some Middle East populations regularly winter in north-east Africa, mainly Sudan. Race pallidirostris partially migratory, northern birds being long-distance migrants to north-east Africa perhaps as far south as Sudan-Kenya border, and to Middle East from Arabia and Iraq to Pakistan; rare vagrant to western Europe. Weak autumn movement at Straits of Gibraltar September-October; wintering birds present in north-east Africa and Arabia until March.