The Brown-backed shrike is a bird characteristic of extensive mosaic cultural landscapes, where flowering meadows intertwine with extensively farmed pastures and impassable species-rich hedgerows, natural shelters as well as individual scrub and tree species.
The species is threatened by the abandonment of extensive agricultural land and its rapid overgrowing with scrubs and trees, agricultural intensification, particularly conversion of grasslands into arable land, pesticide overuse, abandonment of extensive use of grasslands and transition to their intensive use (e.g. frequent mowing leads to the decline of grassland plant diversity, which has a negative impact on the abundance of the Red-backed Shrike’s prey), replacement of traditional orchards (high-stemmed trees) with plantation orchards, use of silage instead of hay and cutting of hedgerows, natural shelters, individual scrub and tree species.
To preserve the bird, we should therefore urgently protect both its nesting habitat (hedgerows, natural shelters, individual scrub and tree species in the agricultural landscape) and its feeding habitat (extensively farmed grasslands, traditional orchards and other extensively cultivated agricultural areas). This is why the project includes implementation of the measure to establish new and restore existing hedgerows, natural shelters and extensively farmed grasslands. In order to raise public awareness as to the importance of conserving the Brown-backed Shrike and its habitats, educational and interpretation points will be set up.
Why do we need Brown-backed Shrike and hedgerows?
This shrike species preferentially preys on insects (grasshoppers, beetles, field crickets, butterflies and mole crickets) in extensive grasslands, but also have a liking for small vertebrates (such as small birds, lizards, frogs, small rodents). This also regulates the abundance of those particular animals that we, humans, consider pests in fields, orchards and gardens.
Hedgerows play an important part in agriculture, given the fact that they mark the ownership boundaries of individual plots, demarcate pastures from arable land, offer protection to grazing animals against heat, wind and heavy rains, provide firewood and protect fertile soil against wind and water erosion, while hedgerows have a beneficial impact on the formation, regeneration and preservation of fertile soil.
Hedgerows prevent or reduce nutrients, fertilizers, pesticides and sediments to be washed into groundwater and surface waters and have a positive effect on water quality.
Hedgerows and natural shelters, which also include nectar plants, are of crucial importance for pollinators. They are a source of food, especially in early spring, when crops on agricultural land do not bloom as yet, at a time when meadows are mown and in dry periods.
Hedgerows and natural shelters provide larger mammals (deer, foxes, martens …) with hiding or resting places, while smaller mammals (hedgehogs, dormice, bats …) are provided with the possibility of wintering, feeding, nesting and raising their young.
What can we do to improve the Brown-backed Shrike's and hedgerows' conservation status?
Let us maintain species-rich hedgerows.
Let us manage agricultural land extensively.
Let us reduce the use of pesticides.
Let us maintain hedgerows in a way that will preserve the diversity of plant communities, i.e. rich herbaceous layer and species-rich woody vegetation. The diverser the plant community, the greater the chances for animals to find suitable shelters, feeding and breeding habitats, and orientation corridors.