Red-backed Shrike
  • This beautiful member of the shrikes, sometimes called 'butcher birds' because of their habit of using thorns on shrubs to hang their prey (large insects, small reptiles and mammals) is one of the sad stories of Santon Downham. During the breeding season, there used to be numerous pairs in and around the area, occupying any habitat where there was a scattering of thorny bushes.
  • The national population had been declining for over a century, and was about 300 pairs by the early 1950s. Santon Downham was still a place to visit to ensure seeing one. By the early 1970s, this population had fallen to 50 pairs and the last pair in the UK bred at St Helen's picnic site in 1988. A loan male returned in 1989 and called forlornly for a mate, without success. Since then, there have been one or two pairs returned to the UK, but not to our region. But keep your eyes open, the habitat is still there.