Bird Families

Gray shrike


There are so many songbirds in our forests. Walking along the forest path, you can hear wonderful trills and sonorous tones of voices of different birds. Shrike is also one of them.

One of the most common species of these birds is the gray shrike, an inhabitant of Russian forests. That is why we will talk about him, because we simply have to know about our smaller brothers, and even more so about those who live in our country. The gray shrike is a bird from the order of passerines, of the family - shrike, genus - shrike.

Gray shrike (Lanius excubitor).

How to recognize a shrike by appearance

You cannot call a shrike a very small bird. Its length is about 25 - 26 centimeters. This feathered singer weighs approximately 70 grams.

The plumage of this bird should be described separately. Almost the entire body of a shrike is covered with light gray feathers of an ashy shade. The tail is mainly black in color, in some places white inserts are visible. The area of ​​the eyes is highlighted in the bird with horizontal black stripes, it seems that a mask (or sunglasses) is worn on the shrike's face.

The gray bird wears a black "mask".

Male shrike is slightly larger and heavier than females.

The habitat of the gray shrike

These birds are inhabitants of the northern hemisphere. They can often be found in Eurasia, the territory of their residence stretches from north to south up to the 50th parallel. The same goes for the continent of North America. In our country, this bird lives exclusively in the northern regions. The shrike does not welcome the territory of the British Isles and avoids Iceland - you will never meet these birds here.

Gray shrike lifestyle

The resounding singing of a shrike can be heard from afar.

Most often, this songbird can be seen on the edges of the forest, next to field bogs, in meadows overgrown with bushes or in clearings. The shrike spends most of the time on the tops of trees, in dense foliage. But do not rely too much on getting to know this bird - in relation to a person, the gray shrike behaves very carefully and tries to avoid human society. But if you don't manage to see him, then you will definitely hear this songwriter, because the shrike sings its sonorous trills almost all the time.

Gray shrikes live, as a rule, one by one. Only for the time of breeding do they create families.

Did you know that shrikes are real bully? They can specially take and with their singing warn animals nearby that a predator has entered their territory. Probably, this behavior makes the shrike a lot of enemies! And this songbird is also famous for its habit of surviving all birds from its territory, even those that are much larger than it. That's a badass - but at first glance you can't tell!

Today the gray shrike will dine with a field mouse.

By the way of feeding, shrikes are predators, they look out for their prey, sitting on the upper branches. Having found a potential victim, the shrike boldly rushes at her.

So what does a shrike predator eat?

Its diet includes small vertebrates: these are small birds, vole mice, and shrews. Sometimes a shrike can attack a young rat. This brave hunter is not afraid of anything!

Reproduction of gray shrikes

In the middle of spring, the breeding season begins for these birds. The resulting pair starts building the nest. As a rule, it is located at a height of 6 - 7 meters from the ground. When the nest is ready, the female gray shrike starts laying eggs. One female is able to lay 5 - 6 pieces.

Future chicks of the gray shrike.

The brooding period for chicks lasts about two weeks. Newborn babies eat food brought to them by their parents. This happens for three weeks. In the middle of summer, the young already leave the nest of their parents, although they are close to them.

Who are considered the enemies of the gray shrikes

It is worth noting that these birds are very dexterous creatures. They can hide at lightning speed in the thick of foliage. Therefore, it is not so easy for predators to catch them.

But the shrikes themselves are big badass, they like to tease such large birds as: hawks and falcons. Predators, outraged by such behavior, rush at the shrike, but he has already disappeared into the crown of a tree - and he was!

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In an adult male gray shrike, the top of the head, back and upper tail are gray - from light gray to brownish gray. There is a black mask on the head, passing from the beak through the eyes to the ear feathers. Flight feathers are black, partly with white bases, forming sometimes very small, sometimes very wide, and sometimes divided into two parts "mirror". Tail feathers are black, with white tail spots, which become wider towards the edges of the tail; in some, two or three pairs of outer tail feathers may be white. The throat, chest, abdomen, sides and undertail are whitish, gray or brownish-gray, and in this case with a thin streaky transverse pattern. In adult females, the color is the same, but all tones are duller and more gray, on the underside there is always a well-pronounced brown streaky transverse pattern. There are females, apparently old, outwardly indistinguishable from males. Juveniles are similar to females, but even grayer, their dark transverse pattern is more developed not only on the lower side of the body, but also on the head and back. Beak and legs are black, eyes are brownish-brown. Weight 54.5-88.6 grams, males wing - 102.0-123.0, tail 105.0-125.0, females - wing 104.0-115.5, tail 105.0-130.0.


The gray shrike breeds in the mountains of the east and southeast of Kazakhstan, as well as in a number of places in northern Kazakhstan. On migrations and wintering, it is found everywhere. Some subspecies are nesting, others are found only in winter. For more detailed distribution in Kazakhstan, see the Subspecies section.


The gray shrike is a rare resident bird. Inhabits the upper belt of light spruce forest in Dzhungarskiy Alatau (at 2500-2700 meters above sea level) and in the subalpine zone with single trees or shrubs in Altai (at 2000-2500 meters). On migration and wintering, it occurs in open spaces with freestanding trees, groves, shrub thickets and forest outskirts. There are no data on the reproduction of the gray shrike in Kazakhstan. Fledglings were observed on July 17, 1966 in Altai near Lake Markakol. In the foothills and on the plains, singles appear in October. Spring movements begin from early March to early April in the southern regions, and in early to mid April in the northern regions, where they continue until the end of May. Gray shrikes are active predators, feeding on small rodents, small birds, amphibians and reptiles, as well as insects, preferring large ones. Birds can be caught on the fly and killed by biting the back of their heads. The captured animals are carried both in the beak and in the paws.

Sources of information

"Birds of Kazakhstan" volume 3. "Science". Alma-Ata, 1970. Gavrilov E. I., Gavrilov A. E. "The Birds of Kazakhstan". Almaty, 2005. E. I. Gavrilov. "Fauna and distribution of birds in Kazakhstan". Almaty, 1999.

Text of the scientific work "New data on the distribution and abundance of the gray shrike Lanius excubitor in the Nizhny Novgorod region"

Russian Ornithological Journal 2018, Volume 27, Express Issue 1644: 3531-3533

New data on the distribution and abundance of the gray shrike Lanius excubitor in the Nizhny Novgorod region

Pavel Mikhailovich Shukov. Nizhny Novgorod State Pedagogical University named after Kozma Minin. St. Ulyanova, 1, Nizhny Novgorod, 603002, Russia. E-mail: [email protected]

Received July 17, 2018

The gray shrike Lanius excubitor was included in the first edition of the Red Data Book of Russia (category 3 - a rare subspecies), but then it was excluded from the main list and added to the appendix. In the Red Book of the Nizhny Novgorod Region, it has the B3 status - a species that has become rare as a result of human activity (the number has stabilized at a low level and its further decline is not observed). Until recently, the abundance of the Great Gray Shrike in the region was estimated at 600-800 breeding pairs (Bakka et al. 2014).

The gray shrike is also included in the Red Data Books of all neighboring regions. In the Kirov region - category 3 (rare small species) (Sotnikov 2014). In Mari El - category 3 (rare species) (Balda-ev et al. 2015). In Chuvashia - category 1 (endangered species) (Lastukhin et al. 2010). In Mordovia - category 3 (rare species) (Lapshin 2005). In the Ryazan region - category 3 (a rare species with a small number and sporadically distributed over a large territory) (Kotyukov 2011). In the Vladimir region - category 2 (a species that has decreased in numbers) (Mikhlin 2010). In the Ivanovo region - category 3 (a rare species with a local distribution) (Melnikov 2007).

In the Nizhny Novgorod region, the subspecies Lanius excubitor excubitor Linnaeus, 1758 is widespread, the range of which occupies the northern and middle part of European Russia and Western Siberia. Border with subspecies L. e. homeyeri (Cabanis, 1873) runs along 51 ° N. to the Volga valley, from the Volga to the foothills of the Southern Urals at 57 ° N latitude. (Butyev, Mishchenko 2001).

For the first time, the possibility of nesting of the gray shrike in the Nizhny Novgorod province was noted by P.V. Serebrovsky (1918). On July 18, 1911, he caught one bird in the vicinity of the village of Staraya Pustyn, Arzamas district. Copies of the gray shrike from the collections of the zoological museums of UNN and MSU and the Nizhny Novgorod Historical and Architectural Museum-Reserve were obtained in 1900-1952 during the nesting period in the territories of modern Krasnobakovsky, Semyonovsky, Voskresensky,

Borsky and Kstovsky districts, as well as on the outskirts of Nizhny Novgorod and Dzerzhinsk. On autumn-winter roaming, Gray Shrikes were caught in Borsky, Volodarsky and Arzamas districts, as well as in Nizhny Novgorod.

In 1995-2013, in the Nizhny Novgorod region, several researchers noted 69 encounters of gray shrike during the nesting period (28 finds of nests and broods and 41 sightings of adult birds). In most cases, nesting sites were found in raised bogs with sparse oppressed pine forests (38 encounters). 31 nesting territories of birds were located in overgrown fields (Bakka et al. 2014).

In 2014-2018, the author discovered 54 more areas of the Gray Shrike, 10 of which broods were observed. Most of the nesting territories were located on overgrown fields (35) and burnt-out areas (15 encounters), and only in 4 cases were gray shrikes found in raised bogs or overgrown peat quarries (see table). New nesting sites of gray shrikes were found in Vet-Luzhsky, Voskresensky, Krasnobakovsky, Borsky, Balakhninsky, Volodarsky, Kstovsky, Pavlovsky, Vachsky, Vadsky, Navashinsky, Kulebaks, Vyksunsky, Ardatovsky, Sergachsky and Lukoyanovskiy regions.

The number of gray shrike nesting sites found in different stations in the Nizhny Novgorod region in 1995-2018

Nesting stations Number of sites in different years

1995-1999 2000-2004 2005-2009 2010-2013 2014-2018

High bogs 1 - 21 16 4

Overgrown fields - 4 14 13 35

Thus, after the decline in the number of the gray shrike in the Nizhny Novgorod region, which took place in the middle of the 20th century, its growth began in the 1970s. In the 21st century, the number of encounters of this species on the territory of the region increases sharply, and at the same time there is an increase in the diversity of the nesting stations used. It can be argued that the decline of agriculture in the Nizhny Novgorod region allowed the gray shrike to get out of the stage of experience, when it nested almost exclusively in raised bogs, and spread over the territories of overgrown fields and fallow lands. In addition, extensive burnt areas formed after the catastrophic forest fires of 2010 have also become a new breeding station for the gray shrike. At the same time, we are talking about the rapid increase in the number of the species in the region, and not about the redistribution of nesting sites, since the presence of gray shrikes in the raised bogs remains.

In connection with the emergence of new data on the distribution of the gray shrike in the region, a new estimate of its number can be made - 1500-2000 pairs currently live in the Nizhny Novgorod region and the tendency towards an increase in the number of the gray shrike remains here.

Baldaev Kh.V. 2015. Gray shrike Lanius excubitor L. // Red Book of the Republic

Mari El. Yoshkar-Ola: 104. Bakka S.V., Kiseleva N.Yu., Matsyna E.L .. 2014. Gray shrike Lanius excubitor L. // Red Book of Nizhny Novgorod Region. Volume 1. Animals. 2nd ed., Rev. and add. Nizhny Novgorod: 160-161. But'ev V.T., Mishchenko L.A. 2001. Common gray shrike Lanius excubitor excubitor Linnaeus, 1758 // Red Book of the Russian Federation. Animals. M .: 549-551.

Yu.V. Kotyukov 2011. Gray shrike Lanius excubitor L. // Red Data Book of the Ryazan Region. Ed. 2nd, rev. and add. Ryazan: 127. Lapshin A.S. 2005. Gray shrike Lanius excubitor L. // Red Book of the Republic

Mordovia. T. 2. Animals. Saransk: 257. V. N. Melnikov. 2007. Gray shrike Lanius excubitor L. // Red Book of Ivanovskaya

area. Ivanovo: 204. Lastukhin A.A., Dimitriev A.V., Ivanov L.V. 2010. Common gray shrike // Red Data Book of the Chuvash Republic: Rare and Endangered Animal Species. Vol. 1, part 2. Cheboksary: ​​428.

Mikhlin V.E. 2010. Gray shrike Lanius excubitor L. // Red Book of Vladimir

area. Vladimir: 368-369. Serebrovsky P.V. 1918. Materials for the study of the avifauna of the Nizhny Novgorod province // Materials for the knowledge of the fauna and flora of Russia. Dept. zool. 15: 22-93. Sotnikov V.N. 2014. Gray shrike Lanius excubitor L. // Red Book of the Kirov region. Kirov: 61.

Russian Ornithological Journal 2018, Volume 27, Express issue 1644: 3533-3534

Nest of the masked wagtail Motacilla personata in a street lamp in Lepsinsk

Nikolai Nikolaevich Berezovikov. Institute of Zoology, Ministry of Education and Science, 93 Al-Farabi Avenue, Almaty, 050060, Kazakhstan. E-mail: [email protected]

Received July 16, 2018

In the village of Lepsinsk, located in the northern part of the Dzhungarskiy Alatau, on June 4, 2011, I observed a pair of masked wagtails Motacilla personata feeding their chicks in a nest arranged in an electric lamp housing on a power transmission line at the entrance to the territory

Features and habitat of the shrike

This bird species is distributed practically throughout Europe and in some parts of Asia. It is possible to identify the shrike among other birds of a number of passerines by such characteristic features as a peculiar, rather powerful beak with a hook-shaped beak, which is possessed by most other birds of prey.

With their small legs, in comparison with large relatives, they are able to easily grab and transport the same small animals to the required distance. The plumage is rare and can be of very different colors, both light and dark.

But, despite this, it most often has a mixture of black, white, brown and red. In male shrikes, the plumage is brighter. Shrike dwells preferably in open areas where it is comfortable for them to occupy high, well-positioned positions that allow them to succeed in hunting.

The nature and lifestyle of the shrike

As for any predator, hunting plays a huge role in the life of the shrike. Having taken a position convenient for tracking prey at a height, it waits, waiting for the right moment, attacks prey from above, or in the air, if it is a bird.

The victim is carried away to a quiet place, for example, in a nest in a tree, bushes and begins to eat. The predatory instincts of this bird are highly developed, they can catch and kill without feeling hungry.

Behavior song shrike, its character is quite funny and unusual! They can pounce on any bird that has flown into the territory that is under their guard!

Fearlessness and dedication allow them to rush and taunt birds much larger than them. The shrike causes no small harm with its gluttony, settling next to the apiary, they eat bees, thereby creating problems for beekeepers.


  • Boehme R.L., Flint V.E. Birds. // Five-language dictionary of animal names. - M .: Russian language, 1994.
  • Portenko L.A. IV // Birds of the USSR. - M., L .: Publishing house of the Academy of Sciences of the USSR, 1960.
  • Harris, Tom, Kim Franklin. Shrikes and Bush-Shrikes. - Christopher Helm Publishers Ltd, 2000 .-- 392 p. - ISBN 0713638613.

Where dwells

Each type of shrike is distributed in a certain area. In general, their range is very wide, and does not include only Australia and South America. In all other parts of the world, one or another species of this bird is found.

The shrike prefers to live in forest-steppe, shrubs, groves and generally prefers open spaces with tall trees, which helps him in hunting.

Migratory or sedentary

The seasonality of the shrike's migration depends on where the bird species lives. For example, the inhabitants of the northern regions of the gray shrike and the common shrike are migratory birds, and for the winter they migrate south of their usual range. All other shrikes are sedentary or nomadic.

Shrikes are widespread and, accordingly, there are many species, among which: Burmese shrike, red-tailed shrike, governor's shrike, red-backed shrike, Indian shrike, long-tailed shrike, Philippine shrike, wedge-tailed shrike, gray-tailed shrike, red-tailed shrike Tibetan shrike, Newton's shrike.

The most famous species of shrike are listed below.

Gray shrike

It is a large bird the size of a thrush, with a large head, short wings and a long tail. Body length up to 40 cm, wingspan 35 - 39 cm, weight about 80 g.

From above, this species is painted in ash gray. The cheeks and chin are white. A wide black stripe, the so-called "mask", runs along the eyes. The wings and tail are black with white patches. The beak of the gray shrike is large, black with a light base with a long curved hook on the beak.

Desert Shrike

The Desert Shrike is slightly smaller and lighter than the Gray Shrike: its length is 25 cm, weight varies from 45 to 70 g. The plumage includes black, white and gray colors. The back is from gray to black, the abdomen is light pink or light yellow. On the head along the eyes there is a wide black “mask”, which is typical for all shrikes.

Gray-shouldered shrike

It lives in the mountainous regions of Africa and reaches a length of about 25 cm. The back, neck and upper part of the head of this species are gray, the plumage of the breast and belly is white. The wings are black with a white spot. The tail is also black with a white stripe. The beak is hooked.

White-browed shrike

The species is distributed in the tropical part of West and Central Africa at altitudes from 2200 m above sea level.

The body length is about 20 cm, about half of it falls on the tail. Weight about 35 g. The color of the plumage is the same as that of the gray-shouldered shrike. The female is distinguished by brownish-red spots on the sides.

Black-fronted shrike

Medium-sized shrike species: length 21 - 24 cm, wingspan 34 - 39 cm, weight about 60 g. The plumage is painted in black and white tones with a pinkish tinge on the belly. The Black-fronted Shrike is distinguished by a short tail and beak.

Red-headed shrike

This species is of medium size: length about 19 cm, weight 30-50 g. Distinctive features of an adult male are a red cap of feathers on the crown and back of the head, a black “mask” on the eyes. The front of the back is black, the back is gray. The tummy is white with a yellowish tinge.

Masked Shrike

The bird reaches 17 cm in length. Its back is black. The plumage on the belly is white, the sides are orange-brown or reddish-brown. The black mask on the eyes is thin. A long black tail is characteristic.

Common shrift

Common Shrike nests in Europe and western Asia, flies to Africa for the winter.

The body length of these birds: 16-18 cm, wingspan: up to 30 cm, body weight on average 28 g. The back of the males is reddish. The head is gray, with a black mask on the eyes. The abdomen is slightly pinkish, the tail is black and white. In females and young animals, the back is brown, and the tummy is dark yellow.

American shrift

The American Shrike is an inhabitant of the North American continent. In the southern regions, it is a sedentary bird. But the population of the northern regions migrates south in winter.

Very similar to the gray shrike, but with a large hooked beak. The plumage of the head and back is gray, with a black mask on the eyes. The wings and tail are black with separate white feathers.

Siberian shrike

Distributed in the arctic and polar regions. The length of an adult bird is up to 18 cm, the average weight is 35 g. The plumage on the back is reddish-brown. On the eyes - a typical black mask for the genus. The abdomen is creamy white with a red tint, on the sides there are pink feathers. The tail of the Siberian shrike is long, rounded at the end.

Tiger shrike

This inhabitant of East Asia in appearance resembles an ordinary shrike. It is distinguished by its brown in black stripes, "tiger" plumage on the back and tail, a massive beak and a black mask on the head. The females have no mask, the feathers on the head are gray.

Japanese shrike

The Japanese shrike lives in the east of Asia. Its body length is about 20 cm, its weight is up to 50 g. The tail and wings of this species are black, the back is gray, and the tummy is red. The neck and head are also ocher colored with a black mask over the eyes. In addition, the Japanese shrike has a long, white-striped tail. The plumage of females and young animals is brown.

Reproduction and life expectancy of a shrike

Regardless of its cruel hunting qualities, the shrike is an exemplary family man and the founder of the family. Having found a place suitable for the nest (convenient branches of a bush or tree and at a height of no more than two meters), the male puts several branches or blades of grass there and invites the female to create an alliance. If the proposal is accepted, then they are engaged in the construction of the nest together.

The nest itself has two layers, an outer and an inner! Outside birds weave from thin, dry twigs, as well as blades of grass. Internally, it is softened, wool, feathers and grass are used for it.

As for the nesting period, it depends on the area and region. In one area the bird will prefer to nest in May or April, while in another it may be June or July.

The initial stage of acquiring offspring, such as incubating eggs, the number of which is on average from 4 to 7 pieces, is taken on by the female, while the male is keen on hunting and foraging for a painstaking mother, but in case of extreme it can take her for a while a place. The incubation period lasts about two weeks.

In the photo, the chicks of the shrike

From the time of birth of chicks, shrikes direct attention to their protection and food and stay close for up to twenty days, while together hunting and defending offspring from predators, as well as teach birds to first flights.

Chicks are fed primarily with small insects, caterpillars and larvae, since meat is not yet acceptable for the growing offspring. There comes a time when the chicks grow up and leave the nest, but even then the family does not break up, they continue to adhere to each other and the parents periodically feed the children.

The shrike is a migratory, nomadic bird with a lifespan of ten to fifteen years. As a result, we can conclude that the bird of the shrike family is unique, both in its character and in its way of life, which is undoubtedly worth the time and attention spent!

Male and female: the main differences

Sexual dimorphism of female and male shrike is not very pronounced. As a rule, the plumage in females is not as bright as in males. However, since most species are not a riot of colors, the differences between the sexes are small.

Keeping shrikes at home

For a shrike, a blackbird cage or a spacious aviary is suitable. Due to the aggressive nature of these birds, it is better not to settle them together with other species, especially with small birds. If the shrike behaves restlessly, at first, the cage is covered with a light-colored cloth.

It is necessary to feed these predators using insects, beetles, mealworms. The birds are pampered with beef and boiled egg pieces.

It is important to regularly clean the shrike's cage. If the bird does not bathe on its own, you need to spray it with water from a sprayer 2-3 times a week.

Breeding shrikes in captivity is possible if a pair of birds feels comfortable in the enclosure.

Singing shrikes

Shrikes are good mockingbirds, quickly and easily adopt the trills of other birds. Their own songs are melodic and uncomplicated: the alternation of various whistles and chirps is pleasing to the ear and is liked by many songbird lovers.