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A photo of a Brown Shrike (Lanius cristatus), male
Brown Shrike, Male

Brown Shrike

Lanius cristatus

The Brown Shrike, Lanius cristatus, is a member of the shrike family, a group of birds known for their predatory habits and distinctive feeding behavior. This species exhibits a brown upper plumage with a rounded tail, and a characteristic black facial mask, earning it the nickname "bandit-mask." The underparts are creamy with rufous flanks and belly, and the wings are uniformly brown without white patches.

Identification Tips

Males can be distinguished by their more pronounced black mask, which is paler in winter, and a white brow above it. Females have a less distinct mask and fine scalloping on the underside. Subspecies can be identified by variations in crown color, the presence of a white supercilium, and tail coloration.

Habitat

The Brown Shrike is typically found in open scrub habitats, favoring the tops of thorny bushes as perches from which to hunt.

Distribution

This species breeds across northern Asia, from Mongolia to Siberia, and migrates to winter in South Asia, Myanmar, and the Malay Peninsula. It has been recorded as a vagrant in Europe and North America.

Behaviour

The Brown Shrike is migratory, showing high site fidelity during winter. It establishes territories upon arrival at wintering grounds, where its chattering calls are a common sound. The species is known for impaling its prey on thorns, a behavior known as "lardering."

Song & Calls

The winter song is soft, including mimicry of other birds, and is accompanied by a distinctive tail movement. The call is a loud chattering or rattling sound.

Breeding

Breeding occurs in late May or June, with nests built in trees or bushes. The clutch size ranges from two to six eggs.

Similar Species

The Brown Shrike can be confused with the Red-backed Shrike and Isabelline Shrike, but differences in tail coloration and the presence of a grey crown in some subspecies can aid in identification.

Diet and Feeding

The diet consists mainly of insects, particularly Lepidoptera, but also includes small birds and lizards. Prey is often captured on the ground after being spotted from a perch.

Conservation status

The IUCN Red List classifies the Brown Shrike as Least Concern, indicating a stable population without significant threats at present.

Brown Shrike Sounds


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