Shrike: the quality index for biodiversity “made in Gers”

Pierre Forêt abandoned the 2 CV and other 4Ls to return to his first love, ornithology!

He talks to us today about the shrike.

“There is no doubt that the “butcher bird” is back. This is the reputation of this magpie because some stock up on prey by impaling them on thorns or barbed wire, also called “lardons”.

I love this wintery spring to count the first migrants from tropical Africa.

What was my surprise to observe a vole impaled on the thorns of a hawthorn tree at the bottom of the rocky spur of Bezolles, a former seigneury of Fezensac.

“A clue?” I said to myself. The clicking alarm cry of a male shrike proved me right as I walked along the hedge towards the communal lake.

Carrying upright, in full view at the top of a wild plum tree, she challenges me with her silver cap, black mask, creamy-white belly and buff coat.

On the lookout for the next prey

She snaps. This is a big worry. I observe him, talk to him. She responds with a calm chirp. Sometimes it confuses me because it imitates other birds.

The bocage hedge remains its ideal habitat for nesting. It appreciates thorny shrubs close to open environments with meadows and crops in order to hunt flying insects or voles. Insectivorous and carnivorous, it is therefore a significant aid for farmers and cereal growers.

The “scratcher” or more reasonably the rosehip: a wild and thorny rosacea that pleases this shrike there

The “red-backed” shrike therefore remains a bio-indicator species of a healthy natural environment with these different ecosystems (hedges, insects, birds and meadows) which harmonize. It is today an ultra-protected bird because it has declined by 50% over the past twenty years in Occitania.

The hawthorn tree: a skinner that skins its prey well

A loop migration

This summer visitor lands in our Gers valleys after a 2,500 km flight from Africa. Not bad for a 17 cm bird!

But its migration is unique among the feathered “long haulers”: arriving here in May, it normally leaves in September but more often at the end of July. A short period during which the family does not linger after the young have fledged.

It migrates towards sub-Saharan Africa via the Balkans and Egypt but returns to Western Europe via the Arabian Peninsula and Turkey. Flight with stopover.

May the State’s ambitions to increase a line of 50,000 km of hedges by 2030 be realized. A file that should not be so difficult for a noble Pie!

Text and photos: Pierre FORET

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