Northern Grey Shrike/Lanius excubitor

Northern Grey Shrike/Lanius excubitor - Photographer: Светослав Спасов
Northern Grey Shrike/Lanius excubitor - Photographer: Иван Иванов
Northern Grey Shrike/Lanius excubitor - Photographer: Иван Иванов
Northern Grey Shrike/Lanius excubitor - Photographer: Младен Василев

L 22-26 cm. Wide distribution, with habitat and habits different in S and N. N European birds (ssp. excubitor) breed in upland birch forest, thinly pine-clad bogs, in clearings; short-range migrant. Southern populations (several races) live in more open, often dry country provided lookout posts (e.g. wires, trees) and nest sites (thick bushes) exist; resident.
IDENTIFICATION: A big, light grey and white shrike with large head, black eye-mask, black, rather short and blunt wings with relatively large white primary-base patch, and long, rounded tail, black with white sides. Scans from exposed perch, jerks tail sideways, flies in deep undulations when moving longer distances; can hover. Sexes similar. - Juvenile: Dirty grey above, virtually wholly unvermiculated, but off-white below with close grey vermiculations. - Variation: In S France and Iberia (ssp. meridionalis): darker and brown-tinged above, pink-grey below; narrow, distinct white supercilium and forehead; small wing patch (on ‘hand’ only). In N Africa: both a coastal similarly dark form but with grey breast and no white supercilium (algeriensis), and a paler desert form with much white on wing and tail (elegans). In S Middle East (aucheri): a little black on forehead (but much less than Lesser Grey Shrike). In N Central Asia (pallidirostris): large wing patch (on ‘hand’ only), buff tinge below, rather short, narrow tail.
VOICE: Call usually a drawn-out trill, ‘prrrih’. In anxiety, a hoarse ‘vaihk vaihk vaihk’. Song quiet, a simple phrase, e.g. a metallic or squeaky double note, or various short notes followed by hoarse trill, repeated rhythmically once per 1-3 sec.; also has a soft subsong with mimicry.

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