Red-backed Shrike

Red-backed Shrike  Lanius collurio


  • 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
  • Collurio : Greek word kollurionthrush-sized bird mentioned by Aristotle and Hesychius

Vernacular Names: Pakistan: Lallatora, Baluchistan: Ganj, Sind: Mulhalo, Guj: Pardeshilatora, Retiolatora, Lalipithlatoro, Mar: LalPathichaKhatik

Distribution in India: Breeds in Ladhak, winter visitor in North West India.

Description:  Size of 17–19 cm; Weight of 22•5–34 g. It is a small shrike with fairly short wings and longish tail; when excited, indulges in tail movement in form of loose flick or curving swing, accompanied by partial spreading of tail. The male of nominate race has bluish-grey upper forehead and crown to nape and hindneck. The lower forehead and mask from lores to rear of ear-coverts are black. The mantle, scapulars and back  are bright chestnut, rump and uppertail-coverts are bluish-grey; upperwing are blackish, feathers are edged chestnut, sometimes a very small white patch at base of primaries; tail is black, all except central pair of feathers have white base, outermost pair with white outer web. In flight, all-black central tail feathers and black terminal band on others form inverted T-shape on white background. The chin and throat are white, underparts are very light salmon-pink, undertail-coverts are white,          sometimes some dark barring on flanks. The iris is dark brown; bill is black or blackish, paler or bluish base in non-breeding season. The legs are black or dark brown. The female is similar to male but generally paler and duller, with creamy lower forehead and supercilium and brown ear-coverts. The facial mask is restricted and much less distinct. The crown and upperparts are warm brown or greyish-brown, nape is usually tinged greyish. The rump and uppertail-coverts are grey to greyish-brown; tail is dark brown to rufous-brown with whitish edges and tip. The upperwing is like male but fringes are paler and duller; creamy below, often with pale pinkish-buff wash on side of breast and flanks, vermiculated with blackish except on throat and undertail-coverts. The bare parts are like male, but bill and legs are slightly paler. The juvenile is similar to female but with even less contrast in plumage, entire  upperside, including top of head, rump, upperwing-coverts and tertials are rufous-brown to buffish-brown with heavy blackish crescent shaped barring. The underside is more heavily vermiculated than female.

Habitat: It is found in sunny, warm, usually dry, and level or gently sloping terrain, with scattered bushes, shrubs or low trees providing hunting posts overlooking areas of short grass, heath or bare soil  . It is found from 1000m to 3000m

Food habits: It eats insects, especially beetles, Orthoptera and Hymenoptera, also other invertebrates. It eats small mammals, like voles, birds, and reptiles. At end of summer and in autumn diet sometimes complemented by berries, especially of wild cherry and elder. Most prey is located from exposed, usually low perch, by sit-and-wait strategy. Large moving insects are spotted up to 30 m away, and caught in bill after shallow direct glide, which may terminate in brief hover before bird drops into vegetation; also drops straight on to prey below perch. Flying insects taken in rapid, sometimes lengthy, aerial pursuit. The prey is carried back to perch for consumption or impaling. Many prey items impaled on thorns, broken twigs, barbed wire. It eats invertebrates by beating them on substrate to remove extremities, wing cases, etc., or picks these off by bill while holding prey under, or in, foot or after impaling. Vertebrate prey are killed by blow to back of head or neck; brain often consumed on ground and animal decapitated before being cached. Unable to dismember vertebrate prey is held only under foot, and these therefore impaled for treatment.

Breeding habits: They breed in May to Jul. The pair formation is fairly rapid, mostly in breeding territory, although occasionally during spring stopovers. The nest is untidy-looking, a loose foundation of often green plant stems, roots, grass, lichen, hair, etc., compactly lined with grass, hair, moss, fur, reed (, flower heads, plant down and similar material. The nest is situated in dense, often thorny. They lay a clutch of 3-7 eggs, .The incubation is done almost exclusively by female, although rarely male assists. The incubation period is 12–16 days. The chicks are brooded by female and fed by male for first week, thereafter fed by both sexes. Occasionally, one or more unmated individuals help in brood-rearing, at times taking over almost entire task from breeding pair. The nestling period is 14–16 days. The fledglings begin to catch insects for themselves from 14 days after leaving nest and become independent 20 days later.