The red-backed shrike is a medium-sized passerine, intermediate between those of the sparrow and those of the blackbird. It is easy to identify and detection because it is not shy and has an unmistakable silhouette from “miniature raptor”. It has an enlarged head, a strong slightly hooked beak and a slender tail. It is observed on perches used for hunting or for the defense of the territory  that can be trees, shrubs, poles and wires.

The species has a strong sexual dimorphism. The adult male has a showy plumage in which we note an ample black mask on the side of the head and a brown-reddish back. Female and young have a less showy and distinct plumage. Substantially of reddish-brown colour.

Its flight is undulating for short stretches and straight on long routes.

The red-backed shrike is a long range migratory species. It can cover distances of even 10.000 kilometres between the wintering and the reproduction quarters.

It is present in Italy from the end of April and leaves for Africa (where it winters) between the beginning of July and September. The species remains, on average, a hundred days in the nesting site, then spends another hundred days in migration.

Once it has arrived in Africa, it remains about 120 days and then returns to Europe with a faster trip (45 days). Its migration is “ring” as the paths it follows are not the same during autumn and spring.

The red backed shrike nests in areas where there are traditional agricultural landscapes, with pastures, prairies, large clearings and uncultivated. It needs shrubs, hedges and small groves that it uses as perches for hunting or sites for nesting. In these enviroments there is, normally, a certain abundance of insects that act as preys.

The red backed shrike hunt with the steakout in dominant points. It is capable of detecting insects moving up to a distance of 30 meters; these are caught with the beak after a rapid and direct flight. It also eats reptiles, amphibians, birds and small mammals. The preys are sometimes “stored” on thorny shrubs, barbed wires, broken twigs; the bird shoves them creating real “pantries”. The non-digestible parts (hair, bones, chitinous fragments of insects) are regurgitated in the form of boulses.

The breeding season runs from May to July-August. The pair bond is monogamous and lasts for one breeding season. During the courtship display, the male performs various 'bows' and also offers prey to the female. It then shows itself to be extremely territorial.

The red backed shrike has a rather limited vocal repertoire. Its song is warbled but is rarely emitted, even during the breeding season. It is more common to hear an unpleasant call that sounds like 'SCIACK' or 'CECK-CECK'. This is emitted to defend the territory from conspecifics or following the sighting of a possible predator. The young then emit sharp and shrill cries with which they demand to be fed from the dense foliage of a bush.

The European population of the red backed shrike has been showing a decreasing trend for several decades. The main causes of the species' decline are to be found in the progressive alteration and disappearance of suitable habitats. The conversion of mixed crops into monocultures is increasingly widespread, leading to the disappearance of hedgerows, isolated trees and marginal uncultivated areas. The abandonment of pastures, with the consequent invasion of open habitats by the forest, is also to blame.

The red backed shrike is considered a bioindicator; its presence is associated with agricultural environments with high biological diversity. The species, due to its unfavourable conservation status, is included in numerous protection lists at the international level. It is included in Annex I of the Birds Directive and Annex II of the Bern Convention.