Masked Shrike

Lanius nubicus Lichtenstein, 1823

Order Passeriformes

Family Laniidae

Conservation status: in Bulgaria: Vulnerable VU C, BDA-III; International: ECS-Spec 2, BD-I, BeC-III.

General distribution. A Mediterranean species breeding on the Balkan peninsula, Cyprus, Asia Minor, the Near East and the Middle East to Turkmenistan and probably Afganistan.

Distribution and abundance in Bulgaria. A breeding summer visitor. After the first record in in 1963, comparatively few observations followed in the southernmost parts of the country, mainly in Southwestern Bulgaria [1, 2]. At present, it is mainly found in Southern Bulgaria [1, 2, 3]. It breeds along the lower reaches of the Struma and the low parts of the surrounding mountains. In the Upper Thracian lowland it is well represented along the Maritsa River and some of its tributaries, at places in the northern foothills regions of the Rhodopes and Sakar. It has a scattered distribution in the mountains Eastern Rhodopes, Western Strandzha, in the north to Sredna Gora. Along the Black Sea coast it is rare, in the north it reaches the region of cape Emine. It is incidentally reported to the north of the Balkan range. The estimated numbers in the country are 1 800 2 200 pairs [3].

Habitats. Pseudomaquises [1]; loose xerothermic oak forests of the sub-Mediterranean type (mostly Downy Oak) [3]; riverside plantations of hybrid poplar, less often thickets of willow, ash-tree and acacia [3]; orchards, plantations of walnut-trees, almond-trees, town parks (Kenana in the city of Haskovo) [D. Dermendzhiev and S. Stoychev, unpubl. data]. The occupation of forest plantations which have replaced natural woodland is an adaptation of the species with a potentially long-term conservation benefit [5].

Biology. A monogamous, territorial species. In suitable habitats it forms loose concentrations: up to 6 pairs/1.9 ha in riverside poplar plantation. The nest is small and well-camouflaged, located at a height between 0,95 and 18 m above the ground [3, 5]. The clutches most often contain 4-6 eggs. Only the female incubates, for about 14-16 days. The food of the species basically consists of insects. Food "reserves" in Bulgaria have been registered at the end of the summer [3, B. Nikolov, unpubl. data].

Similar species. None.

Negative factors. Change and degradation of the habitats: deforestation, fires, etc. Forestry activities have a potentially negative influence related to the use of chemicals and disturbance during the breeding period.

Conservation measures taken. Protected according to the Biological Diversity Act. Some of the localities of the species fall within varoius protected areas reserves, protected areas, Important Bird Areas.

Conservation measures needed. Carrying out forestry activities outside the breeding period. Making focused studies of the species. Declaration of new protected areas: some of the localities will fall within the Eastern Rhodopes Nature Park, within some Important Bird Areas, etc.

References. 1. Vatev et al., 1980; 2. Nankinov, 2001a; 3. Nikolov, 2006; 4. Iankov, in press; 5. Harris, Franklin, 2000.

Authors: Boris Nikolov, Iliya Vatev

Masked Shrike (distribution map)

Masked Shrike (drawing)