|Photo by Christodoulos Makris (Trek Nature)|
masked shrike (en); picanço-núbio (pt); pie-grèche masquée (fr); alcaudón núbico (es); maskenwürger (de)
This species is found breeding in south-eastern Europe and the Middle East, from Greece, Macedonia and Bulgaria to southern Israel, northern Iraq and western Iran. They migrate south to winter in Africa from Ethiopia and Eritrea to Chad, Mali and eastern Mauritania. There is also a wintering population in Yemen and southern Saudi Arabia.
These birds are 17-18,5 cm long and have a wingspan of 24-27 cm. They weigh 50-70 g.
The masked shrike is mostly found in dry savannas and scrublands, but also in deciduous and coniferous forests, plantations, arable land and rural gardens. It is typically found up to an altitude of 1.000 m, but may sometimes be found at altitudes up to 2.400 m.
They forage by waiting on a perch, in a scrub or tree, and sallying out to catch their prey on the ground or sometimes in flight. They mainly feed on insects, such as crickets, grasshoppers and beetles, but will also sometimes take other arthropods and small vertebrates.
Masked shrikes are monogamous and breed in April-June. The nest is a compact cup made of leaves and twigs, and lined with feathers and hairs. The nest is well hidden on a tree or thorny scrub, up to 12 m above the ground. The female lays 2-7 cream or yellowish eggs with dark spots, which she incubates alone for 14-16 days. The chicks are fed by both parents and fledge 18-20 days after hatching, but only become fully independent 3-4 weeks later. Each pair may raise 1-2 broods per season.
IUCN status – LC (Least Concern)
This species has a large breeding range and the global population is estimated at 140.000-600.000 individuals. The population is estimated to be declining, mostly due to habitat degradation and destruction, but possibly also because of hunting and persecution due to the fact that the masked shrike is believed to bring bad luck in Greece and Syria.