Isabelline Shrike

Isabelline shrike    Lanius  isabellinus


  • Lanius : Latin word for Butcher . They are known as ‘butcher-birds,’ from their habit of storing prey by impaling it on thorns and sharp twigs, giving the resemblance to a butcher’s slaughterhouse
  • Isabellinus : Latin word for “fawn, greyish-yellow “

 Vernacular Names: Mar: LalShepatichaKhatik

Distribution inIndia:Winter visitor to North west India iHimalays

Description: Size of 16-17cm . Nominate race male has pale greyish crown, tinged Isabelline on forehead, complete black facial mask with narrow whitish border above, rather warm sandy grey on upperparts to upper rump, rufous lower rump and reddish-brown tail; upper wing contrastingly blackish, feathers edged pale sandy buff, white patch at base of primaries; throat whitish, underparts sandy cream to Isabelline; iris brown; bill dark brown to dull blackish; legs grey-black. The female resembles male but slightly duller, with browner and less extensive facial mask, smaller patch at base of primaries, slightly scaled underparts, and pink bill base, legs browner or greyer. The juvenile is greyish brown with narrow blackish vermiculations above, tail rufous-brown, creamy buff with brownish vermiculations below, throat and narrow band down to undertail-coverts generally plainer. The first-winter has remnants of juvenile barring above and below, whitish-buff supercilium, brown ear patch, subterminal dark bars on tertials, lower rump, uppertail-coverts and tail, white patch on base of primaries are  little developed. The races differ mainly in coloration and size: arenarius has relatively shorter and less pointed wing than nominate, is also pale, male is uniform greyish or sandy grey above, less well-defined facial pattern, pale lores, pale primary patch is small and less white, tail is dull cinnamon underparts sandy pinkish to pale buff, whiter on center of belly;race tsaidamensis is longer-winged and slightly paler.

Habitat: It is found during breeding period at thickets in river valleys, patches of scrub in dry steppe, in mountains extending up to zone of prostrate juniper. During non-breeding it is found on edges of cultivation in semi-desert and among sparse acacia and tamarisk trees, often in open grassland near water.

Food Habits: It is mainly insectivorous. Prefers mostly and crickets and grasshoppers with other invertebrates; also some small vertebrates taken, including voles lizards, and small birds such as leaf-warblers .Uses sit-and-wait foraging technique, utilizing a variety of look outs.

Breeding Habits: They breed in Jun- July. Mating ritual starts with loud calls by male, which often followed by gliding display-flights of competing males; male has aerial display, flying to and fro in front of female while calling loudly, also bowing perched display with fanned tail raised, this often followed by fluttering flight by both partners. Nest-site chosen by male; nest a deep open cup made from twigs, bark, rootlets, leaves and grass, lined with grass stems, moss and similar soft material and  above ground in bush, often thorny one. They lay a clutch 3–7 eggs, replacement clutches frequent if earlier ones lost. Incubation is done  by female, fed on nest by male for a  period of 13–17 days; nestling period 13–16 days; young fed by parents for 1 month after leaving nest. Nests regularly parasitized by Common Cuckoo