© Copyright: Images: Jari Peltomäki, Kari Pihlaviita. Recording: Jan-Erik Bruun. All rights reserved.

Great Grey Shrike

Lanius excubitor

  • Name also: Northern Grey Shrike, Northern Shrike
  • Family: Shrikes – Laniidae
  • Appearance: A long-tailed, thrush-sized, grey, black and white bird that perches with an upright posture.
  • Size: Length 22–26 cm, weight 56–80 g.
  • Nest: Often in pine trees, at a height averaging 2.5 metres above the ground. Made of twigs, plant stems, beard lichen and the fur of willow catkins, lined with bast fibre, white feathers and reindeer hair.
  • Breeding: 4–8 eggs laid May–June, incubated mainly by female, for 14–18 days. Fledglings remain in nest for 19–20 days. Parents may behave very aggressively towards intruders near nest. Broods stay together for up to two months.
  • Distribution: A scarce breeder found in all parts of mainland Finland in semi-open habitats, most often around bogs. More common in northern regions. Finnish breeding population estimated at 6,000–9,000 pairs.
  • Migration: By day. Flies south September–October, returning in April. Winters in the Baltic Countries and Central Europe, also sometimes in Finland.
  • Diet: Large insects and small birds and animals. Will preserve surplus food by impaling prey on thorny plants.
  • Calls: A chattering “ksi ksi” similar to the call of the related Red-backed Shrike; song a varied series of clipped chirping phrases, also a good mimic of other birds’ calls.

Sometimes known in Finnish as Lapland Magpies, Great Grey Shrikes are long-tailed thrush-sized birds with strong, thick-set beaks. Their wings are black with large white patches on the wing coverts. Their tails are black with white edges. Their upper parts are pale grey and their underparts are white. They have conspicuous black markings like highwaymen’s masks over their eyes. Juveniles are more brownish grey with indistinct streaked markings visible on the belly and rump. Great Grey Shrikes have black legs and beaks, with paler bases to the beak. Their irises are dark brown.

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

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