Isabelline Shrike in Doñana!

The genus Lanius has 27 species widespread in Eurasia, Africa and North America. In Doñana and its surroundings, we can see two regular species, the Woodchat Shrike (Lanius senator) and the Southern Grey Shrike (Lanius meridionalis). 

During January 2020, a first winter Isabelline Shrike was found in El Rocío (Doñana National Park). The Isabelline Shrike (Lanius isabellinus) breeds mainly in Mongolia and China. It is a migratory bird with its wintering grounds located in India, the Arabian Peninsula and East Africa. In the past it was considered conspecific with the Turkestan Shrike (Lanius phoenicuroides) which has a more western range.

The Isabelline Shrike is a very rare visitor to Spain, with only 11 records accepted by the Spanish Ornithological Society committee of rarities until the year 2017.

Isabelline Shrike / Alcaudón Isabel
Isabelline Shrike / Alcaudón Isabel

Our first notice was an email from Tom Kilbane on the 25th of January, explaining that he discovered the shrike the day before. We visited the place on the 27th of January, getting the photos and video that you can see in this post.

Dozens of birdwatchers and photographers were able to spot the bird during the following weeks. The last confirmed record was on the 10 of March  (Raúl Granados, Fátima Romero @eBird), but perhaps he extended his wintering for a few more weeks, but without ornithologists to look for it due to COVID-19.

The bird was located in the reed bed next to the town of El Rocío, on the very border of  the Doñana National Park.

During the hours that we could observe it, it was very active, hunting insects continuously. He was quite confident, but camouflaged himself perfectly among the dry reeds he used as a perch.

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