Bird Families

Shrike bird


  • African larvae ( Campephaga )
  • Orange larvae ( Campochaera )
  • Shrike larvae ( Coracina )
  • Flycatcher larvae ( Hemipus )
  • Lobotos
  • Whistler larvae ( Lalage )
  • Long-tailed larvae ( Pericrocotus )
  • Earth grub-eaters ( Pteropodocys )

Larvae (lat. Campephagidae ) Is a family of small or medium-sized songbirds that live mainly in the subtropical and tropical regions of Africa, Asia and Australia. In total, there are approximately 85 species of larvae-eaters, divided into 8-9 genera. Until recently, the genus of forest larvae (Tephrodornis), but it is probably closer to the forest shrike (Prionopidae) or to the family Malaconotidae... Another monotypic genus of black-breasted larvae (Chlamydochaera) is currently assigned to the thrush family (Turdidae). Some birds in this family are at risk of extinction, including the species Coracina bicolor, Coracina newtoni and Pericrocotus igneus.

Description and features

The shrike is from the order of passerines. In appearance, the bird can be mistaken for a bullfinch, but upon close examination it has a powerful hawk beak, which eloquently testifies to its purpose. This is a predator, thanks to its modest size and camouflage color, it is easy for it to sneak up on its prey.

The concept of a bird of prey and a songbird has always been different, but nature has concluded both talents in a little birdie, the family of passerines at the same time. In addition to other advantages, song shrike has excellent artistic abilities, surprising the audience with a variety of roulades, copies the singing of other birds.

Listen to the voice of a shrike

A shrike can just for fun push an owl off a branch, or tease a falcon, neglecting the danger.

A very friendly species - there are very strong bonds within the family - they support each other, protecting them from large predators. But they are very aggressive towards other species, the second part of the name: "put" from the word of Slavic origin "put" - to drive. He drives his own and others around him, except for smaller breeds, which are suitable for prey.

Will not disregard the hawk, owl, magpie, all competitors of the food chain. The Latin name "ekscubitor" means a watchman or a sentry, a daring guard will gladly spoil the hunt for other birds or animals, warning loudly about the approaching danger.

A dense, laterally compressed beak, a formidable hook-like beak, betrays a predator hiding behind the cute appearance of passerines. The birdie does not possess sharp fighting claws, although it is able to carry caught prey, holding it in its paws.

Karl Linay in 1780 in the book "The System of Nature" classified and described the species of shrike. Prior to this, naturalists called him the ash-gray magpie, blue waxwing. The closest relatives are the corvids family.

Nine species live, nest and breed in Russia.

  • Japanese shrike (Lanius Bucephalus), red sides, white spot on the back, patterned scaly belly color,

  • Tiger (Lanius tigrinus), standard size, striped back, black mark on the eyes, dirty gray belly, the female looks more modest - the color of the plumage is dull,

  • Red-headed shrike (Lanius senator), the back is black, the head is red-brown, there are wide white stripes on the shoulders,

Listen to the voice of the red-headed shrike:

  • Black-fronted shrike (Lanius minor), less than gray in size, the forehead is widely framed with a black spot, the bottom is white with a pinkish tinge, differs from its relatives in a wave-like flight,

Listen to the voice of the black-faced shrike:

  • Gray shrike (Lanius eckubitor), light forehead, shorter tail, black stripe running through eyes, belly white,

Listen to the voice of the gray shrike:

  • Wedge-tailed (Lanius sphenocercus), in comparison with other species, a larger bird, a long wedge-shaped tail, white stripes on the wings and shoulders,

  • Siberian Shrike (Lanius cristatus), closest shrike kinsmanbelonging to the order of passerines, the head and tail are light brown, the abdomen is covered with a gray scaly pattern,

Listen to the voice of the Siberian shrike:

  • Red-tailed Shrike (Lanius phoenikuroides), bright red tail, sandy body,

Listen to the voice of the red-tailed shrike:

  • Shrike Shrike ordinary, (Lanius collurio) differs from the Siberian in the light gray color of the tail and head, the back is chestnut, the black framing of the eyes.

Lifestyle and habitat

The area of ​​distribution of the species is the zone of the temperate and subarctic belt of the northern hemisphere, from forest tundra in the north to the steppes in the south. The habitat extends to the 50th parallel.

  • Body length 24-38 cm,
  • Wingspan 30-34cm,
  • Weight 50-80 grams.

Habitat in Russia: from the Volga to the foothills of the southern Urals, along the southern outskirts of the Siberian taiga, along the Yenisei, found in Bashkiria. The forest-steppe subspecies lives in the Ryazan, Bryansk, Voronezh, Kaluga, Lipetsk regions. The Moscow region and its environs also have some forest resources to attract birds to their nesting sites. The Russian species is considered nomadic, and the southern ones are migratory.

During flights, it occurs not far from human settlements, although the bird is shy, it avoids meeting with a person. Sedentary nomadic species - in autumn and winter migratory birds go south, stopping for wintering in the southern regions of Ukraine, India, Africa - nomadic movement continues from October to March.

Europe has about 250 - 400 thousand individuals. The highest bird density among the Ukrainian-Belarusian Polesye, it is here that a significant expansion of the nesting area is observed. They fly in flocks or singly. Settlements and nesting sites cover North America, Asia, North Africa.

Kronotsky Biosphere Reserve is a wintering place for this species in Kamchatka. The bird's favorite places are in tall trees, in a dense crown it is difficult to notice it, but you can always admire the singing, because sonorous trills are constantly heard among the greenery. Hearing a person, the bird won't fly away, it will only fly to another place.


The modest size has served well, the shrike calmly, without attracting too much attention, lands between unsuspecting sparrows. No one pays attention to him, while he slowly chooses a sparrow for lunch, scattering at the poor victim. Sparrows scatter, but the prey is already in its beak.

The favorite strategy of the predator is to look out for food for itself, from a tall tree, then headlong rushing down almost vertically. If the target has time to bounce sharply, he catches up with her quickly running on a flat surface.

Perfectly catches birds in flight - the hunter is so passionate that he snatches a sparrow, even from under the hand of a person, when he is desperately trying to escape. Getting into the trapping net along with the trophy, it does not stop, continuing to torment the caught game.

The shrike carries its prey to its favorite places for dining, usually a thorny bush with thorns or sharp branches. The catcher pricks it on a thorn, tearing it apart with its sharp beak. Why he acts in this way, biologists have no exact explanation. This is how representatives of all species of shrike act, which received the name of their species: Lanius - butcher.

The shrike is a bird of prey capable of attacking even sparrows

When harvest years come, all branches within the robber's habitat are hung with stocks of mice or birds. A leaner time - only skins and feathers hang on them. Such fastening helps to easily deal with the caught game, the fastening on the thorns will not allow it to slip away or fall off the branch.

As birds teach their offspring to fly, to hunt, so shrieks teach a new generation to prick prey on thorns. Learning isn't easy, but persistence brings results. In addition to small birds, common shrike catches:

  • Their mammals: murine rodents - voles, shrews, young rats,
  • Nimble lizards, frogs, toads
  • Cases of hunting for bats have been recorded,
  • Hymenoptera and Orthoptera insects (May beetle, beetle, weevil),
  • Mayfly butterflies for feeding offspring,
  • Snails, earthworms, spiders.

Sometimes he can catch a bird larger than himself, in the summer they eat blackberries, plums, figs. It flies 400-500 meters behind the food, hovering over the marked prey.

Reproduction and life expectancy

There are isolated cases of breeding in captivity.

One year of age is the time of puberty, family life begins. Common shrike belongs to monogamous species, nesting period April - July. The most optimal for nesting are swamps, wet meadows with massifs of bushes, or single bushes.

Also nests in forest glades, fires, felling areas or forest edges. Nests are arranged on bushes or trees, choosing a thicker branch. Different types build houses at different heights, from two to nine meters above the ground. Often, nests are used for several years in a row, subjecting them to spring repair.

The mating song is pleasant, melodic, consisting of a complex sequence of busting and trills, although the male has a whole set of sharp cries, whistles, clicks to pursue the enemy. The boyfriend bows rhythmically to his chosen one, shouts, sings, hiding among the crown of a tree, then begins to defiantly fly in circles.

Spouses are equally involved in breeding offspring, only their roles differ. The male takes care of the female, singing beautiful songs to her, chooses a nesting place, puts several large branches at the base.

If courtship is accepted, then the female continues to build the nest further, adding twigs, blades of grass. As a result, a plump basket is obtained, it lays in the middle the wool of faded animals and feathers of birds. A winged builder frames the top of the nest with green grass, perhaps for disguise or for beauty.

Communicates with the groom and lays eggs. Usually egg laying takes place in the second half of April and May, sometimes eggs laid in June are found, apparently re-laying instead of stolen by the predator. The color of the eggs is whitish with scattered brown specks.

The maximum age was recorded by ornithologists in Slovakia. It equals six years.

The next half month is spent incubating the eggs. Clutch usually consists of 5 - 7 eggs, less often 8 - 9, incubation lasts 15 days. The father is engaged in obtaining food for himself and his wife. Chicks hatch blind, slightly pubescent along the barrels. The mouth inside is orange, bright, to attract the attention of parents.

They actively forage for their children for three weeks. Chicks leave the nest at the age of 18 - 20 days, and after another two weeks they become completely independent. In June, you can already see the first young flying birds, but they do not go far from their parents.

Until the fall, they continue to use parental complementary foods, until it is time to gather in flocks. Cases were observed when half of the chicks joined the mother, and the other half joined the father.

Shrike chick

Number shrike birds is rapidly decreasing due to a decrease in areas free from agricultural activities, the use of a large amount of pesticides. To preserve the species, it is necessary to preserve a landscape suitable for nesting birds, a ban on the use of chemicals in the agricultural sector, and the introduction of nature conservation methods.

The Oksky Reserve is engaged in the study of settlements and migration of the species, protection of forests, the population density of the gray shrike is 50 pairs per 230 hectares. The nesting success in the study areas is 58%.

Other protected nesting sites are located in the Kandalaksha nature reserve, Laplandsky, Tsentralno-Lesnoye. They conduct a targeted study of the location of the species, monitoring of permanent nesting sites, and the study of related factors.

Shrike is listed in the Red Data Book to restore the population

The shrike is protected by the Red Data Book of Russia, the European Community for Environmental Protection. The Berne Convention included in Appendix No. 2 an agreement between Russia and India on the protection of migratory birds, including the gray shrike, black-tailed, tiger, Siberian shrike.

A person must take good care of the surrounding nature, participating in the movement to preserve endangered species. Community communities of bird watchers, foresters, and gamekeepers take care of improving forest lands and restoring populations of endangered birds. Shrike in the photo looks like a harmless peaceful bird.

Origin of the species and description

Photo: Gray Shrike

For the first time, in fundamental science, this bird was described in the middle of the 18th century in the 10th volume of Carl Linnaeus's book "Systems of Nature". Since then, the description of the bird has changed several times, but in general, the Swedish biologist was not mistaken and characterized the bird as a small winged predator.

In terms of evolution, the shrike is considered one of the four most ancient birds on Earth. This is associated with its aggressive and predatory nature. It is believed that the family of shrikes survived the global ice age and were forced to eat meat, since there was simply no plant food and insects.

Video: Gray Shrike

The shrike is a medium-sized bird (roughly like a thrush). The bird's head is large and round. The wings are rounded at the edges, and the tail of the shrike is rather long in comparison with the small body. On average, a bird is about 35-40 centimeters long, a wingspan of about 35 centimeters, and a bird weighs 70-80 grams.

The back of the bird has a grayish plumage, the belly is covered with brownish feathers. A horizontal black stripe runs through both eyes and down to the ears. It is she who makes the bird recognizable and it is difficult to confuse it with someone else. The tail of the bird is coal-black, with small white edges. The bill is massive and strong, well adapted for hunting small game. The legs are small, but tenacious, which allows the shrike to cling to the thinnest branches of trees.

Appearance and features

Photo: What does the gray shrike look like

The appearance and behavior of a bird depends on which subspecies it belongs to. In total, there are five large subspecies of this bird, which differ significantly from each other in size and color.

  • gray shrike. The most numerous representative of the species lives in many regions of the Eurasian continent. It got its name from its ash-gray color. Differs in a rather aggressive and cocky behavior, as well as a wide black stripe on the eyes,
  • Japanese shrike. Perhaps the smallest subspecies of birds. Lives exclusively in the east of Japan and therefore has such a name. This small bird, about 20 centimeters long, has a very unusual color. Its wings and tail are black, the belly is red, and the back is gray. However, there is a "black" mask on the eyes, which distinguishes all other shrikes,
  • tiger shrike. Lives in China and the Far Eastern regions of Russia. Differs in very bright, brindle, plumage. The tail and back of the bird are brown with black stripes, which almost completely repeats the color of the Ussuri tiger. By the way, this subspecies also differs in that females do not have a black mask on their eyes, which is characteristic of all shrike,
  • desert shrike. Inhabitant of African deserts. One of the few birds that can live along the perimeter of the heat of the Sahara. It is characterized by its small size (about 20 centimeters long) and weighing 40-50 grams. The back and tail of the bird are black, and the belly is white or light pink. A unique feature of the Desert Shrike is its curved beak, which allows it to break open the hard shells of insects,
  • white-browed shrike. This bird subspecies lives in Africa at an altitude of 2000 meters. This is the smallest of the shrikes.Its weight is about 30 grams, and its body size does not exceed 20 centimeters. This bird stands out from the rest with a white brow, which contrasts with the "black" mask. The female of this species of shrike has red spots on the sides and is very different from the male, which does not have such spots.

Where does the gray shrike live?

Photo: Gray Shrike in Russia

Most songbirds prefer to live in warm climates, but the shrike has adapted well to life in the northern hemisphere. At present, the bird's habitat stretches from the temperate to the arctic belt along the entire 50th parallel.

Russia is rightly considered the birthplace of the gray shrike. The birds are settled over a vast territory from the Volga to the South Urals. A significant part of the birds have completely populated the Siberian taiga and feel great on the banks of the Yenisei. At the same time, one should not think that the bird is capable of living exclusively in the forest. Far from it. On the contrary, shrikes try to populate the forest-steppe and happily live in the steppes of Bashkiria.

Despite the fact that the bird is very shy and tries to avoid meeting a person, shrikes can be found in such densely populated regions of Russia as Moscow, Ryazan, Voronezh and Lipetsk regions.

The gray shrike living in Russia is a migratory bird. In early autumn, birds flock and fly to Africa or India. But shrikes living in warm countries are sedentary and can live in the same territory for a long time. In addition to Russia, shrikes live in North America, Asia, and also in Africa. In India, shrikes do not nest, but only wait out the winter. Also, birds have chosen Kamchatka. Due to the relatively warm microclimate, shrikes live there constantly and do not fly away for the winter.

Now you know where the gray shrike is found. Let's see what this bird eats.

What does the gray shrike eat?

Photo: Bird gray shrike

Despite its modest size, the gray shrike is a predatory and bloodthirsty bird, often hunting for its own pleasure.

Interesting fact: In the event that a bird cannot immediately eat its prey, then it hangs it on the branches of trees. Then, as necessary, she tears off pieces to prey and eats them. Very often, a shrike's nest is surrounded by the crucified corpses of small animals.

The main diet of shrikes includes the following creatures:

  • small birds,
  • mouse,
  • shrews,
  • moles,
  • rats,
  • the bats,
  • large beetles (May or weevil),
  • lizards,
  • frogs.

If bats nest nearby, then there is no doubt that the shrike will hunt them, catching them right in the air. The shrike is a very good hunter. He is able to sit in one place for a long time and look out for prey. After that, he swiftly dives at her and kills with one blow. The shrike loves to attack flocks of passerines, catch beetles and butterflies on the fly, and hunt frogs and lizards.

For its prey, the shrike is able to fly up to a kilometer, and wait until the target gets tired and slows down. During the incubation period, the shrike catches many large insects, since the chicks need protein. The bird is able to feed on carrion and does not hesitate to tear off pieces from the game killed by other predators.

Features of character and lifestyle

Photo: Gray shrike in nature

As mentioned above, the shrike is an aggressive predator that can hunt and kill without even feeling hungry. The bird is reckless and is able to chase prey for a long time. In addition, the shrike has a very strong sense of its own territory. He will attack and drive away all other birds that have flown on her. It often happens that the shrike attacks the birds twice or even three times more than itself, just to drive the uninvited guest out of the territory.

Fearlessness and aggressiveness help shrikes to tease large birds, attack them from different directions and force them to leave their own territory. Birds live in pairs and within their family they maintain a very friendly and strong relationship. Shrikes are monogamous by nature and remain faithful to their partner for life. In addition, they are caring parents, nurturing their chicks for a long time.

Interesting fact: The bird got its name "shrike" from the ancient Slavic word "to put", which means "to drive". That is, literally translated, "shrike" means "chase a magpie", and this characterizes the behavior of this bird in the best possible way.

Another important feature of these birds is that they can make migratory flights both in a flock of 50-80 individuals, or together (male and female). Moreover, along the entire journey, the shrikes support each other and the percentage of missing birds is extremely small.

Social structure and reproduction

Photo: Gray Shrike in flight

In Russia, the nesting season for these birds begins in early May. The male sings songs to the female, bows rhythmically in front of her and flies around her in circles. Then he begins to build the nest and if the female has accepted the courtship of the male, then they continue building together. The bird nests in forest glades, on the outskirts of large forests and even in forest belts in the steppes. Shrike's nest is also very interesting. It has two layers. The first layer is hard. It consists of thin twigs and dry grass. The second layer is soft and contains chicks. Birds create it from the down, feathers and wool of their victims.

As a rule, there are up to 8 eggs in a shrike's nest. The female incubates them, and the male, in turn, completely supplies her with food. Incubation takes up to 15 days, and after this time, chicks hatch. Shrikes are very caring parents. They provide their chicks with not only food, but also safety. One of the parents is always close to the nest and is ready to protect the chicks from any predators.

The chicks' diet consists of insects. This diet is rich in protein, which helps the chicks to develop in the shortest possible time. The chicks spend three weeks in the nest, and then they fly out, but the parents continue to feed them for a month. Moreover, even when young birds are on the wing, they keep in touch with their parents, and they often feed them with their reserves. There are frequent cases when children and parents formed a flock and flew away together for the winter.

Natural enemies of gray shrikes

Photo: What does the gray shrike look like

And although the gray shrike is a tough predator in nature, it has enough enemies. Do not forget that this is a small bird whose weight does not even reach 100 grams. Clutches of eggs and chicks are most at risk. Shrikes are brave and aggressive, but even they cannot ward off or hinder a large enough four-legged predator.

The main enemies of the bird include:

Also, other large predators may eat eggs or snack on non-fly chicks. Even adult cats can threaten a shrike's nest if they wander so far from home. Flying predators can also pose a significant danger to shrikes. Usually, hawks or eagles prey on inexperienced young animals, as adult birds are very nimble and fast. They hide easily in foliage and are not easy to catch by surprise.

The most significant danger to birds of this species is represented by humans. Due to their activity, the food supply of shrikes decreases, which leads to a slow but steady decline in the number of these birds. There are cases when people hunt these birds, exterminating entire families. However, such hunters can be understood. Shrikes like to settle near apiaries and feed on bees with pleasure. In just one season, they can cause significant harm to the bee farm and people have no choice but to hunt shrikes.

Population and status of the species

Photo: Gray Shrike

And although the gray shrike is able to stand up for itself and repulse any predator, the number of this bird is rapidly decreasing. And this is connected not with natural factors, but with human activity. Due to the fact that people are constantly increasing the amount of agricultural land and widely use pesticides to kill insect pests, the number of shrikes decreases every year.

In the taiga regions of Siberia and Bashkiria, the number of birds cannot be accurately counted, but in the Meshchersky reserves the number of gray shrikes has decreased by half over the past 10 years. Currently, only 50 pairs of these birds live in this reserve. Scientists ornithologists estimate the total number of birds in Eurasia at 20-30 thousand individuals. About 30 thousand more individuals live in Africa. This is enough to restore the population and maintain the natural balance, but a certain threat to the species still exists.

The fact is that gray shrikes reproduce extremely poorly in captivity. There are only two known cases when these birds gave birth in a zoo enclosure. Therefore, it is not possible to artificially restore the shrike population. At this point in time, the population of shrikes causes the least concern and in the coming years they are not threatened with extinction and extinction as a species.

Gray shrike Is one of the most unique birds in the world. This is the only songbird that can sing beautifully and ruthlessly hunt its own kind. Outwardly, the shrike looks like a completely harmless bird, but behind this cute appearance lies a ruthless predator capable of coping with prey twice its size.


Distributed in the tropical and subtropical zones of Africa, South and Southeast Asia, Oceania and Australia. On the territory of the Russian Federation, one species is found - the gray larvaeater (Pteropodocys divaricatus), living in deciduous and mixed forests of the Amur Region and in the south of Primorsky Territory. The range of genera of forest, flycatchers and simply larvaeaters is mostly limited to the countries of South and Southeast Asia. Representatives of island larvae live in Australia.


In the overwhelming case, they live in trees, often in the upper tier of the forest, near the leaf canopy. Many species prefer forest edges. About 11 species prefer more open spaces. Previously, it was believed that the only species that spends most of its time on earth is the Australian forest larvaeater (Pteropodocys maxima), but this bird is currently regarded as belonging to a different family. It is found in swampy, humid tropical or arid xerophytic forests, in mangroves, in thickets of shrubs or savannas. Most species are sedentary and tied to a certain territory. However, some species, especially those found in Africa and Australia, migrate over short distances. Three species of larvae from Central and East Asia are migratory birds: for example, the gray larvae (Pericrocotus divaricatus) winters in the Philippines.

Behavior and reproduction

They are found alone, in pairs, or in flocks of the same sex (larvaeaters). Coracina lineata spends the night in groups. The breeding period of larvaeaters has not been sufficiently studied to date, but it has been noticed that most species, with the exception of Lalage tricolor, breed either in the rainy season or immediately after its end. Monogamous, reproduce in pairs (not colonies). The nest in most birds is built by both the male and the female, on a horizontal or forked branch, and is a small, shallow cup-shaped formation of dry branches of trees, bark, moss, lichen, grass and cobwebs, near which it can often be found. Clutch consists of 1-5 (most often 2-3) eggs. In most species, only the female incubates. The incubation period is 14-25 days. Both parents take care of the chicks. Chicks leave the nest in 13-24 days.