Fearless Bird of Prey - Shrike


The common gray shrike has a reputation as a hermit, since to meet him is a great rarity. To notice this feathered, you need patience and observation. But since the bird avoids the neighborhood with man, it can only be seen on forest edges, on the outskirts of marshes, on tops of bushes and tall trees. If you hear a song resembling the voice of a magpie, then perhaps it is a gray shrike.

The red book was replenished with this rare bird, since the number of the species is very small. She received 3 category. To save this subspecies, careful treatment of forest swamps and old woodlands is required.

Shrike description

This species of birds belongs to the large birds. Body size - an average of 26 cm. Bird weight - about 70 grams. The color of the shrike is light, the back is ashen-gray, and the belly is white. On the breast there is a picture. Stepped elongated tail and wings are black. On the edge of the tail feathers - white border. Also, the light transverse band runs along the wings. The head is also decorated with stripes - a black “mask” stretches from the beak through the eye. Since this bird is a predator, it was “rewarded” with a hooked beak. Female and male in color do not differ. You can notice the difference in their size, the "boys" are slightly larger.

When a gray shrike sits on a branch, its tail drops down or bulges out. The flight of this bird is undulating.


Despite the fact that the number of these birds is small, their habitat is very wide. Shrike gray in small quantities inhabits the whole of Europe, a significant territory of Russia, North Africa. In addition, the bird settles in some areas of South Asia, up to the eastern line of India. It is also feathered, penetrating through Chukotka, stops near the woodlands of the USA and Canada.

This type of bird prefers to live in open areas. But despite this, Shrike masters mountainous areas, taiga and tundra. It can be noted that closer to the south this bird is nomadic, and representatives of the northern zones fly over for wintering.

Bird voice

Gray Shrike makes sounds that are similar to magpie songs. His voice is harsh. The song is not melodic, consists of creaky low-pitched whistling sounds or a humming trill. But in his repertoire there may be sounds overheard in other birds. With age, the males accumulate the repertoire, and their songs become more artistic and diverse.

Also with the help of sounds shrikes transmit information. For example, in case of danger they issue frequent check-check-check. Peculiar singing they differ in the marriage period.

The shrike gray is a bold predator, therefore it feeds on what it catches. Large insects, such as locusts, large beetles, dragonflies, etc., may be included in the diet. But the bird also hunts small vertebrates, since there are very few insects in the northern regions. Shrike willingly catches lizards and small amphibians. In addition, it loves rodents, such as voles, shrews, mice, moles, and eats small birds (sparrows, warblers, tits).

After the prey is caught, the shrikes immediately eat it. The bird does not make reserves, although if there is an abundance of food, it can dry the prey by hanging it on the needle from the acacia, and the vertebrate, leaving it in the forks of the branches. But It is worth noting that not all gray shrikes are prone to such behavior.

Feathered nesting

Since gray shrike is a large bird, its nest is also large. Usually such a house is built only by a female. Males are involved very rarely. To build a nest, select the appropriate branch. Often this is a thick process of a bush or tree. Also, the house can be mounted at the very trunk. The nest is low, from 1 to 2.5 meters. It has two layers. The outer side is woven of thin branches from shrubs and trees, and also dry grass blades are woven here. A characteristic feature of the shripe nest are parts of branches with green leaves.

The inner side is made of softer material. So the tray spreads with wool, thin blades of grass and a large number of feathers, although in some nests there may be none.

The nesting period is different in different areas. This may be April or May, and in the northern parts of the range it is June. The shrike laying consists of 4–6 eggs with a white-green shade and brown specks. The female mainly incubates the offspring, and the father only occasionally replaces the mother.

Shrike gray remains on laying for up to 15 days. In these two weeks, the male does not fly away far from the family. Both parents feed the hatched offspring. A male and a female take care of the young for about 20 days. At this point, the chicks are ready to fly. But it is interesting that sometimes even before the kids learn to fly well, they already fly away from the nest. Until the departure of the parents care about the offspring. A couple can feed their chicks for a long time.

The beetles and beetles are included in the diet of the young, and in rare cases they are given larvae and caterpillars.

Additional details and interesting facts about Gray Shrikes

Shrike is a cunning bird with a biting character. So, he likes to tease small falcons and hawks. Noticing the enemy, the cunning fox climbs to the top of a pine tree and begins to sing carelessly. The predator notices him and rushes to attack, but the shrike deftly hides in dense thickets.

This bird manages to chase away any birds that are larger than it. It is curious how the shrike does it. For this, he purposely spoils the hunt for all predators, feathered and common animals. He warns the victim with sounds that a hunter sneaks to her, and so remains on his territory the sole owner.


The Shrike family - Laniidae ... In these birds the features of passerines and birds of prey are combined. The size of the shrike small: size 15-30 cm, weight 20-120.

They number up to 69 species belonging to 9-12 years. Different taxonomists stand out from 2 to 4 families. Shrikes live in Eurasia, Africa, where their greatest diversity, and in North America.

Shrike bird dense build. Their strong and laterally compressed beak is slightly shorter than the head and ends with a hook curved downwards. By this, as well as by the presence of the preapical tooth of the mandible of the shrike are similar to falcons. In the corners of the mouth, they have well developed sensitive setae. They help to catch mobile insects. The tail is long, stepped, sometimes rounded. The color is varied, but the northern species are not bright, including shades of gray, brown and white. Tropical shrikes are sometimes painted very motley. Males are somewhat larger than females, and in some species are more vividly colored. Males and females sing. The last song is easier.

The shrikes inhabit a variety of landscapes with shrubs both in the mountains and on the plains. Cup-shaped nests are built by both partners, fortifying them in the fork of the branches at different heights, mainly in dense bushes. Masonry consists of 4-6 variegated eggs, which incubate both partners or one female, but the male feeds her. Incubation time 14 - 16 days. Both parents feed up chicks. After 2 - 2.5 weeks, the chicks leave the nest and feed their parents for another two weeks. After gaining independence, the brood falls apart and the shrikes go to a solitary lifestyle.

D. Kaigorodov writes: “The predatory instincts of the shrikes are extremely developed. These birds catch and kill their prey, apparently, even when they are completely fed. ” The shrikes usually feed on large insects, trapping them from their perches — a dry branch or telegraph wires. Their victims are butterflies, beetles, locusts, dragonflies, and in the case of mice, eggs and young birds of small birds, lizards. Shrikes prick large prey on a thorn or sharp knot, and then tear it up. Often stored pinned insects and small vertebrates on the prickles of the reserve.

With regard to the song, it should be noted that the shrikes are fine mockingbirds. For this they are kept at home by some lovers of bird singing. Here's how A. Brem characterizes the Shrike: “On the highest branches of trees standing alone among fields, on prominent branches of bushes, on poles, piles, border pillars and other high places you can often see a sitting bird, proud as a falcon, attentive, like an eagle and restless, like a flycatcher. In the spring it happens to hear that she sings a rather long song, and if you listen to her carefully, you can see that she, in fact, is only a mixture of all sorts of other people's sounds that the bird overheard singers living around her and repeats in the most amusing way. The whole fabric of the song, which she weaves little by little, is so pleasant and attractive that you can listen to the cheat with pleasure. ”

On the origin of the word "Shrike" there are several versions. One of the old names ends with the letter "d", so the word consists of two roots, which give the words - forty pounds. Professor D. Kaigorodov is arguing with this version. He claims that this bird resembles a magpie. “As for the end of the“ put, ”it is probably added as a characteristic of the imitative singing of these birds, which in their songs confuse the voices of other feathered pets,” this author states. KNKartashev in his book “Systematics of Birds” indicates the property of Shrike mockingbirds “to weave bonds to forty birds,” that is, to imitate their voices, thereby introducing people and even the birds themselves to be deceiving.

There are 9 species of shrikes in our country. Of these, the most famous zhulan(Lanins cristatus)inhabiting most of the country, except for the tundra zone. It is small, slightly larger than a sparrow bird. In males inhabiting Europe and Western Siberia, the upper part of the head and neck is gray, the back is chestnut, and the tail, wings, and a broad band going through the eye to the ear are black. Lower body and extreme steering white. In birds living in the east, black in plumage is replaced by clay-brown, the strip that goes through the pelvis is brown. Females are ocher-brown from above, dirty-white from below with dark scaly pattern.

There is a red-backed shrimp most often in the river valleys, on the forest edges, in gardens and parks, that is, everywhere where there are shrubs or individual thick bushes. In them, the birds and arrange their nests. The presence of the con can be detected immediately. One bird from a pair, usually a male, sits in a prominent place. When approaching the observer's nest, it makes sounds that resemble a sharp check-check or a loud chjaa-chyaa.

Zhulans are most often found among birdwatchers, they are quite good mockingbirds. Sometimes in cells contain Gray Shrike(Lanins excubitor), a large white-gray bird, less often another species. At R.L. Boehme lived for several years long-tailed shrike, or shah(Lanins schach)that has a sharp and crackling voice.

Shrike very quickly become tame and take food straight from the hands. Because of their predatory nature, which is dangerous to other birds, these birds should be kept alone in cages. I remember the case that told G. Lafer, an entomologist, but a great lover of birds. He caught for himself songbirds during the spring span. It happened in the south of Primorsky Krai. The manna bird he had was a male dubrovnik oatmeal. This bird was crippled, had only one paw and one healthy eye. Probably, this feature and attracted the attention of the migrant swallow. No sooner had the hunter come to his senses, as the julan flew up to the cage and, through the trellis, grabbed the unfortunate Dubrovnik by the head with his beak. Lafer realized that Dubrovnik was already lost for him, then he covered the rogue with a net. This bird lived in his apartment for a long time, delighting with its various songs.

Vladimir Ostapenko. "Birds in your house." Moscow, "Ariadia", 1996

“Warbler” and “feathered predator” for us are different poles of the bird world. Imagining a hawk hatching trills is as difficult as a nightingale tearing at a victim's body. But evolution doesn't care about our stereotypes.

Shrike gray, or large
Lanius excubitor

Type - chord
Class - birds
Detachment - passer-shaped
Family - Shrike
Rod - Shrike

The length of the body is 23–38 cm (with a tail), the wingspan is 35–39 cm, weight is 60–80 g. There is practically no sexual dimorphism (difference in color and structure of the body).

It inhabits vast territories in Eurasia and North America, roughly between the 50th and 66–71th parallels. Forms a number of subspecies. The populations of the Iberian Peninsula, North Africa and the Asian deserts were previously considered as a subspecies of Gray Shrike, since in the common areas these forms were regularly crossed. Recently, such hybrids have not been observed, and experts have isolated the desert shriek into an independent species of Lanius meridionalis, the evolutionary formation of which has ended literally before our eyes.

Gray shrike is listed in the Red Book of the Russian Federation, but in general, the state of the species does not cause concern.

On a summer day, a bird song is spread over a meadow or a small grove. Short melodious trills and gurgling whistles alternate in it with a buzz and a screech, and all this is seasoned with knees from songs of various birds. If you take a closer look, you can see a singer on any single tree - a rather large (thrush-sized) bird with a characteristic almost vertical body position. She sits almost motionless, and through binoculars she can be seen in full detail: a dark gray back, a light gray chest, black with white wings and a tail, a black stripe mask across the head.

If it were not for the size, the shrike can be confused with the bullfinch female, but his beak is powerful, hooked, like a hawk, which eloquently testifies to the profession of this bird. Gray shrike has gone on the way from insectivorous to predation, perhaps, farther than all its relatives. The main part of its prey is made up of small vertebrates: frogs, lizards, rodents and birds, although it also does not squeamish by large insects (big beetles, grasshoppers, etc.). The modest size of the shrike serves as a kind of disguise for him - small birds do not perceive him as a predator. He can calmly land in the midst of a flock of sparrows having a rest, slowly choose a victim, and until he throws himself at her, they will not suspect that the enemy is among them. His favorite hunting tactic is sitting high on a tree above a meadow or field, looking for prey. When the target is chosen, it overtakes it with a short, almost vertical throw, and if it misses or the victim has time to shy away, the shrike runs after it on the ground.

However, the birds, he pursues and through the air - in the short distance without effort catching up with a sparrow or a bird. Shrike hunter gambling - even if a frightened bird in despair rushes to a nearby person, a gray predator can grab it almost from his hands. There are cases when the shrike, being covered with a net of traps, continued to torment the bird with enthusiasm already in the snares. Shrike kills caught prey and carries it in claws (just like a big predator) to one of its “feeding tables” - places chosen for cutting and absorbing food. Most often such a place is a bush or a tree with large spines or numerous and strong short sprigs. The predator strings its prey on a thorn or knot (sometimes wedges in the fork of the branches) and proceeds to its planned cutting. So all members of the genus Shrike act, and it is for this that they received their generic name Lanius - "butcher." What gives the shrike this "proprietary" manner of handling game is that scientists have no common opinion on this matter. Probably, the predator thus saves the excess game for a rainy day. In fact, if food is scarce, then only a completely scraped skin remains from a vole put on a thorn, while in the abundant tenure of the shrike possessions are decorated with a whole collection of not eaten or completely untouched trophies.

According to another version, such a fixation of prey makes it easier to cut it - a small, light predator, and in fact it is not easy to tear up the robust skin of a vole or tear off a frog leg. And the untouched victims strung on thorns are the cost of the predatory instinct: many predators kill more game than they can eat. Perhaps the “gifts” hanging on the branches are a kind of visual aids, according to which the grown chicks are taught the rules of life of adult birds. Anyway, hanging prey on knots cannot be considered a “behavioral rudiment”, a useless ritual that has long lost its adaptive meaning and persisted in the innate behavior of the bird only due to the conservatism of the genome. The founder of ethology, Konrad Lorenz, who had studied this issue specifically, found that from birth, a shrike had only a desire to press the prey against a protruding bitch. Искусству накалывания трофеев молодые птицы довольно долго учатся, постепенно приобретая мастерство и вырабатывая собственные ухватки, точно так же, как они осваивают приемы охоты или строительства гнезда.

Ни размерами, ни окраской самцы серого сорокопута почти не отличаются от самок. Уже по одному этому можно догадаться, что в выращивании потомства участвуют оба родителя. Так оно и есть, хотя роли супругов в этом процессе заметно различаются. Право выбора места для гнезда принадлежит самцу — владельцу охотничьего участка. Usually it is built in the depth of the crown of a sufficiently thick (or even better - thorny) tree, at the trunk or at a fork of thick branches, at a height not lower than a meter. During courtship, the male may even lay a symbolic “first brick” in the future home — several branches. But if the female accepted this invitation, she almost does not allow the male to further construction and equips the nest herself, because she will spend almost a full fortnight in it. From twigs and stalks the female weaves a thick-walled basket, and from the inside she lines it with soft blades of grass, wool (it happens in spring, during a mass molting of animals) and feathers. Winged architects often weave young shoots with green leaves into the outer layer, perhaps for beauty, or perhaps for disguise.

It usually takes about 15 days from egg laying to hatching of offspring. The female mainly sits on eggs. The male is engaged in the protection of the site and the extraction of food for himself and his girlfriend and only occasionally replaces it on the nest. After the appearance of chicks, the female returns to active fishing, carrying food along with her spouse. After 18–20 days, the chicks acquire the ability to fly and leave the nest. In central Russia, this falls around the beginning of June. However, all summer and autumn, the family continues to stick together, and the parents occasionally feed the young.

How friendly the shrikes are within the family, just as they are hostile and aggressive towards all other creatures. The second part of the word "shrike" goes back to the Slavic verb "puditi" - "drive", in Ukrainian this bird is called "fortyogin", that is, forty-hex. And this is true: guarding its plot, the Shrike tries to get rid of not only its congeners, but all the birds larger than itself (it considers smaller ones as potential prey). He gladly spoils the hunt to competitors - four-legged and feathered predators, notifying everyone around about their appearance (the species Latin name of the gray shrike excubitor means “guard”, “sentinel”), from pure excitement the owl resting on it in the afternoon. The small predator dares even to tease hawks and small falcons - such fun is deadly, but the Shrians never stops.

As winter approaches, the shrikes from the northern part of the range (and this bird extends to the Arctic Circle, and in some places further) fly south, but not to the tropics, but closer - to little snowy steppes. Their more southern tribesmen are limited to only small migrations. It is believed that the gray (or large) shrikes nesting here are shifted to the south for the winter, and their relatives from the northern populations arrive to us. However, it should be noted that the wintering of gray shrikes was repeatedly recorded even in the Kronotsky biosphere reserve in Kamchatka, famous for its geysers, to the north of which these birds should not be at all. Apparently, in each population there are separate individuals that do not fly away at all and remain in their common places.

It seems incredible that this strictly carnivorous bird manages to survive the long winter: of all its habitual objects of hunting at this time, only rodents remain, almost inaccessible under a thick layer of snow, and few species of hibernating small birds.

However, judging by the appearance and behavior of the wintering gray shrikes, they feel great: they are clearly not hungry and not in poverty, and their marriage song can be heard even in mid-January.