Distribution Britain 15 (-86.5%) Ireland 0
Numbers breeding: Britain 6 RBBP Ireland 0
European status: 2,900,000 (0% in Britain and Ireland)
British population trend: effectively extinct
How likely are you to record it? 4 squares (0.1%) Ranked 167=
The story of the Red-backed Shrike in Britain makes really sad reading. At the end of the 19th century a decline had already been noted with breeding sporadic in England north of a line from the Humber to the Mersey. The bird was still considered common over the rest of England and most of Wales. The retreat in the first 50 years of this century left the birds breeding, less commonly, south of a line from the Wash to South Wales with none left in Cornwall and few in Devon. About 1955 the last one bred in Wales and by 1960 the population was down to about 250. The die was cast and there were about 50 left in the early 1970s (more than half in Suffolk). Sporadic summer records in Scotland, presumably birds from Scandinavia, had been reported but in 1977 three pairs bred and there have been subsequent records there (including proved breeding and other pairs in 1997). Regular breeding in the traditional areas in East Anglia ceased several years ago. This species migrates south-east and we are at the extreme edge of the range. The loss of mixed farms with small fields and large hedges may be a cause of their demise since, where this habitat is still present in Belgium, there is still a good population. However the typical habitat of the last pairs in England was another threatened habitat lowland heath. The birds were also a target for egg collectors. Not much chance of a return in the South unless global warming can help.
UKBAP Scottish Natural Heritage/English Nature RSPB.
The following Bird On! sketch is available:
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From The State of the Nations Birds
Copyright © 2000 by Chris Mead