Ornithologists Band Long-tailed Shrike at Zwin Nature Parc: New Species for Belgium



A first for Belgium: a Long-tailed Shrike, found, ringed, measured (and released) at Zwin Nature Parc. (Photo: Didier Vangeluwe, RBINS)
Ornithologists Band Long-tailed Shrike at Zwin Nature Parc: New Species for Belgium
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Reinout Verbeke

Our ornithologists have banded a Long-tailed Shrike at the Zwin Nature Reserve in Knokke. Never before was this species recorded in Belgium. It is only the fifth time that this Asiatic bird makes an appearance in Europe.

On 15 October 2017, ornithologists and volunteers of our Institute caught, identified, banded and measured a first year Long-tailed Shrike in the Zwin Nature Parc in Knokke, after which the bird was released. It is the first time that this species is recorded in our country, and only the fifth time in Europe.

Guest from the East

Long-tailed Shrikes breed in large parts of Southeast-Asia: from Uzbekistan in the West, to China and New-Guinea in the East. The nesting place that is closest to our country is Kazakhstan, so the individual that has been seen in Zwin Nature Parc has travelled at least 5,300 kilometers north-west, while it should have migrated to the south of India. ‘Why this bird drifted so far from its usual course, is unknown’, says our colleague and ornithologist Didier Vangeluwe, who banded the bird.

The Long-tailed Shrike is a very rare vagrant all over Europe. There are previous records of the bird in Sweden (1999), Scotland (2000) and Denmark (2007). The last case dates from 2011, when an individual was discovered in Den Helder, in the Netherlands. The Long-tailed Shrike of Knokke is (if accepted by the Belgian Rare Birds Committee) the 448st bird species that was recorded in Belgium.

Impaling Prey

Long-tailed Shrikes measure 25 cm on average, and weigh around 40 grams. ‘Look at that beak, just like a falcon’s’, says Vangeluwe. ‘Shrikes are not only passerines, but also small birds of prey. They show remarkable behaviour. They hang or impale their prey – ranging from big insects to mice and small birds – on thorns or barbed wire. So they install a storage closet! The only bird family that does this.’


The discovery of the Long-tailed Shrike in the Zwin Nature Parc took place during a so-called ‘open ringing station’ of the Belgian Ringing Service, part of the Royal Belgian Institute of Natural Sciences (RBINS). Visitors could observe the scientific work of our colleagues and volunteers. The ringing campaign happens in collaboration with the Zwin Nature Reserve (property of the Province of Western Flanders). ‘The Zwin Nature Reserve is an airport for birds’, says Vangeluwe, who coordinates the Ringing Service. ‘With 380 trained volunteers, we manage to ring 700.000 birds in Belgium on an annual basis. In this way, we can visualise migration movements (maps for more than 280 species can be consulted on BEBIRDS), discover new species for our country, and unravel new population patterns.’

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