|Great Grey Shrike|
Lanius, the typical shrikes, are a genus of passerine birds in the shrike family. The majority of the family's species are placed in this genus. African species are known as fiscals. That name comes from the Afrikaans word fiskaal ("public official", especially a hangman), because they hang their prey on thorns for storage.
Most Lanius species occur in Eurasia and Africa, but the Great Grey Shrike has a circumpolar distribution, and the Loggerhead Shrike is confined to North America. There are no members of this genus or the shrike family in South America or Australia.
Lanius shrikes are birds of open habitats typically seen perched upright on a prominent perch like a treetop or a telegraph pole. They sally out for prey, taken in flight or the ground. These species primarily take large insects, but will also take small birds, reptiles and mammals. For large northern species such as the Great Grey, the majority of the prey will be vertebrates, especially in winter.
Despite their diet, these are not true birds of prey, and lack the strong talons of the raptors. Though they use their feet to hold smaller insects, larger prey items are impaled upon a sharp point, such as a thorn or the barbs of barbed wire. Thus secured they can be ripped open with the hooked bill.
Most Lanius shrikes are solitary, except when breeding and highly territorial. Northern or temperate species such as the Great Grey and Red-backed Shrikes are migratory and winter well south of the breeding range.
The sexes of most species are distinguishable, the male invariably being the brighter bird where there is a difference.
There are some natural groupings within the genus, such as the seven African fiscals, the large grey species (ludovicianus, excubitor, meridionalis and sphenocercus) and the Eurasian brown-backed species (tigrinus, bucephalus, collurio, isabellinus, cristatus and gubernator). In the last group in particular, it has been difficult to define species’ boundaries, and in the past several of these shrike have been lumped as conspecific.
The prehistoric shrike Lanius miocaenus has been described from Early Miocene fossils found at Langy, France, though its placement in this genus is not universally accepted due to its fairly high age.
Species in taxonomic order
- Masked Shrike, Lanius nubicus
- Grey-backed Fiscal, Lanius excubitoroides
- Long-tailed Fiscal, Lanius cabanisi
- Woodchat Shrike, Lanius senator
- Lesser Grey Shrike Lanius minor
- Sao Tome Fiscal, Lanius newtoni
- Mackinnon's Shrike, Lanius mackinnoni
- Northern Fiscal, Lanius humeralis
- Southern Fiscal, Lanius collaris
- Uhehe Shrike, Lanius collaris marwitzi
- Emin's Shrike, Lanius gubernator
- Souza's Shrike, Lanius souzae
- Tiger Shrike, Lanius tigrinus
- Bull-headed Shrike, Lanius bucephalus
- Brown Shrike, Lanius cristatus
- Red-backed Shrike Lanius collurio
- Isabelline Shrike Lanius isabellinus
- Red-tailed Shrike, Lanius phoenicuroides
- Burmese Shrike, Lanius collurioides
- Bay-backed Shrike, Lanius vittatus
- Long-tailed Shrike Lanius schach
- Grey-backed Shrike Lanius tephronotus
- Mountain Shrike or Grey-capped Shrike, Lanius validirostris
- Taita Fiscal, Lanius dorsalis
- Socotra Shrike, Lanius uncinatus
- Desert Shrike, Lanius elegans
- Great Grey Shrike Lanius excubitor
- Somali Fiscal, Lanius somalicus
- Loggerhead Shrike, Lanius ludovicianus
- Northern Shrike, Lanius borealis
- Iberian Grey Shrike Lanius meridionalis
- Chinese Grey Shrike, Lanius sphenocercus
- Tibetan Shrike, Lanius giganteus
- Tony Harris and Kim Franklin, Shrikes and Bush-Shrikes ISBN 0-7136-3861-3
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