If you awarded a prize for the most striking British songbird, a male red-backed shrike would surely be a clear contender.

With its dove-grey head, black mask, white throat, russet back and delicate, peachy breast, it is undoubtedly beautiful. But like all shrikes, it is also astonishingly charismatic and graceful. They may be small – somewhere between the size of a sparrow and a starling – but with that hooked beak they look rather like a miniature raptor.

Red-backed shrikes are commonly known as “butcher birds” due to their eating habit of catching small creatures and impaling them on sharp thorns or barbed wire.

While in Europe they are still common, the UK the situation couldn’t be more different. During the twentieth century the species began to decline, until by the time I began birding in the 1970s it had virtually disappeared.

The red-backed shrike, which used to be found in hay meadows, hedges, scrub and heath across southern England, was lost as a breeding species in the 1990s.

Habitat destruction and the sharp decline in insect numbers are the reasons thought to be behind the dramatic decline.

Plans to reintroduce the red backed shrike in Derbyshire are afoot, however, the fundamental problems for their demise continue to worsen making any meaningful recovery in breeding pairs unlikely.


At Natural World Fund, we are passionate about stopping the decline in our wildlife.

The declines in our wildlife is shocking and frightening. Without much more support, many of the animals we know and love will continue in their declines towards extinction.

When you help to restore a patch of degraded land through rewilding to forests, meadows, or wetlands, you have a massive impact on the biodiversity at a local level. You give animals a home and food that they otherwise would not have had, and it has a positive snowball effect for the food chain.

We are convinced that this is much better for the UK than growing lots of fast-growing coniferous trees, solely to remove carbon, that don’t actually help our animals to thrive.

This is why we stand for restoring nature in the UK through responsible rewilding. For us, it is the right thing to do. Let’s do what’s right for nature!

Support our work today at https://naturalworldfund.com/ and join in the solution!

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