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© Copyright: Images: Jari Peltomäki, M. & W. von Wright: Svenska fåglar (Kansalliskirjasto, The National Library of Finland). Recording: Jan-Erik Bruun. All rights reserved.

Red-backed Shrike

Lanius collurio

  • Family: Shrikes – Laniidae
  • Appearance: Long-tailed perching birds slightly larger than sparrows. Males have reddish brown backs and grey heads with a black mask-like eye-stripe. Females are more brownish in colouring with crosswise streaks on their underparts.
  • Size: Length 16–18 cm, weight 25–35 g.
  • Nest: Usually in a thick bush at a height of between 0.25 and 4 metres. Made of moss, plant stems, twigs and roots, lined with thin grass, root fibres, hair and feathers.
  • Breeding: 3–7 eggs laid in May–June, incubated by female for 14–16 days. Fledglings remain in nest for 13–17 days.
  • Distribution: Breeds in scrub in open areas and cleared forests in Southern and Central Finland, scarcer further north but may bee found as far north as Oulu and Kainuu. Numbers have declined recently. Finnish breeding population estimated at 50,000–80,000 pairs.
  • Migration: Nocturnal. Autumn migration August–September, returning May–June. Winters in tropical Africa.
  • Diet: Large invertebrates, voles, mice, fledglings. Impales surplus food on thorns of plants such as roses or Whitethorn, for storage until rainy periods.
  • Calls: A harsh smacking “dsrek”, song quiet chattering including skilful mimicry of other birds’ calls.

Red-backed Shrikes are not much larger than sparrows, but they have distinctive strong beaks and long tails. Males have reddish brown colouring on their back and wings, and a bluish grey cap and nape, with a black mask-like eye-stripe. Their underparts are pale with a pinkish tinge on the chest. Their tails are black with white patches on the base of their outermost tail feathers. Females have rusty brown upper parts and paler underparts with crosswise streaked patterning. They also have less distinct dark brown masks. Juveniles resemble females but have more reddish brown backs and more prominent streaked patterning also on their upper parts.

Red-backed Shrike’s legs are blackish (male) or brownish grey (female). Their beaks are black (male) or dark brown (female). They have dark brown irises.

Other species from the same genus
Other species from the same family

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