Why has the Rufous-tailed Shrike been declared Bird of the Year 2022 in Spain?

Why has the Rufous-tailed Shrike been declared Bird of the Year 2022 in Spain?


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The Rufous-tailed Bird of the Year 2022 has been proclaimed by SEO/BirdLife. It is a migratory species closely linked to dry land vineyards, olive groves and fruit trees and is in danger in Spain, with a population of 17,334 specimens.. The three candidate species for this edition (reddish alzatail, Montagu’s harrier and shrike) are associated with agricultural environments and present an alarming decline in their populations, as has been confirmed in the recently published Red Book of Birds in Spain and points out the NGO . After a popular voting process, the reddish gag will star in the annual campaign of the conservation organization.

8,876 people participated in the vote and the winning species achieved 37.95%% of the votes (3,368), while the Montagu’s Harrier came second with 34.29% of the votes (3,044), and the common shrike, with 27.76% (2,464 votes), has been in third position.

SEO/BirdLife states that the three species show a significant decline in their populations, mainly due to the loss of natural elements in the agricultural landscape, the widespread use of pesticides and earlier harvests.

Alzacola | pinterest

According to the last national census of the reddish gartail, carried out by SEO/BirdLife in 2020 in collaboration with the National Working Group of the Reddish Warbler and the University of Alicante, the species shows a “great decline” and confirms a “very serious” conservation status.

Specifically, its population would be made up of some 17,334 individuals, of which western Andalusia hosts 71% and Extremadura 27%, with other small populations in Almería (145 males), Murcia (136 males) and Alicante (14 males).

The results by region show a reduction of the population of reddish algae between 86% in the western region (Badajoz), and 98% in the eastern region (Alicante and Murcia). The reduction for the whole of Spain is 94.8%. These results imply that the algatail meets the criteria of the International Union for the Conservation of Nature (IUCN) to be cataloged ‘Endangered’ and in the Spanish Catalog of Endangered Species for the category ‘Endangered of Extinction’.

Main threats

The threat that more generally affects the populations of alzacola in Spain is related to the intensification of crops, which implies the change from rainfed to irrigated land, greater use of phytosanitary products, more mechanized and frequent work, and reduction of herbaceous cover. In addition, the concentration of land entails the loss of the traditional mosaic of crops and a homogenization of the landscape with the reduction of boundaries and weed vegetation.

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In olive groves, intensification implies a densification of the plantation framework and, in the case of super-intensive olive groves, hedge planting and the mechanization of all agricultural work. Likewise, the habitual elimination of the vegetal covers that grow between the rows of the feet of olive trees or vines leaves the ground completely bare, eliminating trophic and refuge resources.

On the other hand, the substitution of traditional crops for intensive vegetable crops or crops in greenhouses or under plastic, which has occurred especially in Huelva, Almería, Murcia and Alicante, completely eliminates the habitat used by the Rufous-tailed Grasshopper. In addition, emerging crops are spreading that displace traditional ones and are not suitable as habitats, such as pistachio and almond trees in Badajoz, which replace vineyards and olive groves.

Why has the Rufous-tailed Shrike been declared Bird of the Year 2022 in Spain?
The guinea pig lives in agricultural environments | Shutterstock

All these processes reduce the availability of nesting sites. and contribute to the decline of the arthropods that the species feeds on, especially large prey such as caterpillars and orthoptera, according to SEO/BirdLife.

The abandonment of crops that have ceased to be profitable, such as vineyards or citrus fruits, can also be negative for the algae, if the vegetation that replaces them does not turn out to be a suitable habitat.

Protection measures

From SEO/BirdLife they have announced that they are going to develop several actions to favor the reddish prawn which will also redound to the benefit of other species with which it shares a habitat. Thus, they demand that the aid and measures of the new CAP incorporate the requirements of this species, promote support and viability, also within the framework of the CAP, for traditional rain-fed vineyards and olive groves, to avoid their transformation to more intensive models or other crops and develop demonstration projects to value the conservation of the species and biodiversity as another tool to improve its profitability, such as the second phase of the LIFE Olivares Vivos project.

Also, they propose develop follow-up and monitoring actions for their populations in key areas and promote new studies of its movements, and its threats and factors of decline, demand the proper cataloging of the species according to its level of threat, together with the rest of the species that require such review and make known to society a widely unknown species until now by the majority of the population and the importance of its conservation and the habitats in which it is found.