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Species Guide
A photo of a Masked Shrike (Lanius nubicus), male
Masked Shrike, Male

Masked Shrike

Lanius nubicus

The Masked Shrike (Lanius nubicus), a member of the shrike family Laniidae, is the smallest of its genus. It is a long-tailed bird with a distinctive hooked bill. The male is characterized by black upperparts, a white crown, forehead, and supercilium, and large white patches on the shoulders and wings. The underparts are white with orange flanks and breast. The female is similar but duller, with brownish-black upperparts and a grey or buff tone to the shoulders and underparts. Juveniles are grey-brown with barring and have white primary patches on their wings.

Identification Tips

Adult Masked Shrikes can be distinguished from similar species by their white head and dark rump, in contrast to the Woodchat Shrike, which has a black crown, rusty nape, and white rump. Juveniles have a longer tail and paler face compared to the Woodchat Shrike's sandy back and pale grey rump.


The Masked Shrike favors open woodland with bushes and some large trees, often avoiding very open country. It can also be found in orchards, cultivated lands with old trees or large hedges, and occasionally in gardens and resorts during migration.


This species breeds in southeastern Europe and the eastern Mediterranean, with populations in eastern Iraq and western Iran. It migrates to winter in northeast Africa, with vagrants reported in northern and western Europe.


The Masked Shrike is solitary, maintaining territories during breeding and wintering. It is less conspicuous than its relatives, often perching in less exposed locations. It exhibits an upright posture and has an agile flight.

Song & Calls

The calls are short and grating, while the song includes melodic warbler-like components. Alarm calls are a rattling "krrrr," and the bill may snap when agitated.


Both sexes build a neat cup-shaped nest in a tree. The clutch typically consists of 4-6 eggs, incubated by the female for 14-16 days. Chicks are fed by both parents and fledge after 18-20 days, remaining dependent for about 3-4 weeks post-fledging.

Diet and Feeding

The Masked Shrike preys mainly on large insects and occasionally small vertebrates, sometimes impaling its prey on thorns or barbed wire. It hunts from perches, taking prey from the ground, foliage, or in flight.

Conservation status

The Masked Shrike is classified as Least Concern by the IUCN. Although populations are decreasing in parts of its European range, the decline is not rapid enough to raise serious conservation concerns.

Masked Shrike Sounds

Recorded by: © 
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