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Southern Grey Shrike

Updated: Aug 26, 2019

The southern grey shrike (Lanius meridionalis) is a passeriform distributed throughout the Iberian Peninsula, North Africa, the Sahel, the Middle East and South Asia, and it is present in the central and Eastern Canaries. It’s similar to its parapatric relative –of different but adjacent distribution– the northern grey shrike (L. excubitor), that inhabits wooded grasslands, unlike the southern shrike that prefers arid shrublands. Both are known as grey shrikes.

It possesses a black mask, grey back and white belly, whereas its long tail and compact wings are black. The juvenile has brown breast bands. It usually perches upright on its lookout seeking for birds, small mammals, reptiles or arthropods with its excellent eyesight. Its scientific name «Lanius» means “butcher” in latin and refers to its feeding habit of impaling its preys on thorns of plants like the «aulaga» (Launaea arborescens). This way it manages to store food, and due to the fact they lack sufficient strength in its talons, it can hold its preys while it tears them appart with its robust and curved beak that resembles that of birds of prey. It captures preys with its beak and kill with a blow to the head or by biting the neck and sever the spinal cord with its strong notch, or “tooth” near the beak tip. It has a hoarse call, but it can imitate other birds in order to lure them in close and capture them.

This masked raptorial passerine is a fierce bird capable of fighting much larger birds for a territory and taking down large prey. Likewise, it’s very caring for its offspring and shows a great intelligence by using ingenious hunting strategies.

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