Red-backed Shrike (Lanius collurio)
The beautiful Red-backed Shrike L. collurio would once have been the most familiar of the shrike family in both Sussex and the UK for it bred widely, if sparsely, throughout much of England and Wales. However, it sadly declined throughout the 19th and 20th centuries becoming extinct as a breeding bird in Britain from 1992 until 2010. In line with its collapse nationally, the Sussex population, although never large, was certainly declining in the 1930s and the last confirmed breeding was a pair on Ashdown Forest during 1964-68. Other pairs have been recorded, such as those in 1977, 1981 and 1993 but none stayed longer than two days.
Along with many other migratory species of bird, L. collurio is in great danger when travelling to and from their wintering grounds in Africa, with many trapped and killed en route. In Sussex, it is now only seen as a very scarce passage migrant. The best chance of seeing this attractive species now is during autumn passage. Of the 51 birds recorded in the county during 1995-2011, 37 were during August-October, with a clear peak in September. The above images are a selection from a session with the 1st winter bird first reported at Newhaven Tidemills, East Sussex, on 21st September 2016.
Sennitt, M. (2014). Red-backed Shrike. The Birds of Sussex. Thetford: British Trust for Ornithology (BTO) Books on behalf of the Sussex Ornithological Society, pp. 389-390.
Prince, M. (1996). Red-backed Shrike. Birds of Sussex. Sussex Ornithological Society, pp. 498-500.