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Red-backed shrike is bird of the year

The red-backed shrike, a distinctive-looking bird Patrick Donini
This content was published on January 30, 2020 - 10:25

The red-backed shrike has been voted Bird of the Year 2020 by nature conservation group BirdLife Switzerland. 

Easily recognizable due to its red colouring, black eye ring and grey head, the bird used to be common in Switzerland, but is now primarily found only in the Jura and in Alpine regions. 

A particularity: it spears insects on thorns or pointed branches to store them for later. 

“The widespread use of fertilizer and pesticides, more frequent mowing and the destruction of small structures means that the insect population in agricultural zones has dropped over the past decades… As a consequence, the population of red-backed shrikes has halved over the past 30 years,” said BirdLife in a statement on Thursday. 

Red-backed shrikes are mainly found in less intensively-farmed areas in Switzerland, with only few birds making their homes in the lowlands.  

BirdLife called on the government to reconsider its agriculture subsidy policy and to also “put into place ecological infrastructure quickly”. One measure to help bird numbers would be to designate large areas of land as natural habitats, it added. 

The red-backed shrike is currently wintering in the east African savannah and will soon return to Switzerland, where it will start nesting from mid-May.

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