Red-tailed Shrike

Red-tail Shrike  Lanius  phoenicuroides


  • 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
  • Phoenicuroides: Phoenicuroides: Greek word phoinix –crimson, red, purple;   ouros –tailed; oides – resembling 

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

Description: It has a size of 16·5–18 cm; wt. of 25–38 g. It is a rather small, compact but long-tailed shrike. The adult is darker with male highly variable, having forehead and crown tawny to rufous. The upperparts including nape, mantle, scapulars, back and uppertail-coverts are buffish brown to bright rufous. The flight-feathers are blackish brown, with bases of primaries as white, primary-coverts are blackish brown, tertials, greater and median coverts are blackish brown with buff-brown fringes to outer edges and tips, and lesser coverts are brown. It is concolorous with mantle and scapulars. The central rectrices are rufous-brown, rest are paler rufous. It has bolder white supercilium and black band on lores, below eye and on ear-coverts, and whiter below with vinous-pink wash on flanks. The bill is blackish brown to pale brown, with even paler base, irides are brown, and legs and feet are dark grey to blackish. The adult female is also variable, with upperparts typically brown, tinged rufous on crown, tail is usually like that of male, supercilium is more buffish, sometimes lores and feathers around eyes are entirely pale buff, dark brown patch on ear-coverts, and underparts are whitish. It is narrowly barred brown over cheeks, neck-sides, breast-sides. The wings are like male but white at base of primaries is smaller and usually buff-tinged. First-winter largely isfemale-like, but upperparts when fresh usually show faint barring, while barring on cheeks is typically clearer and more extensive. The tail is like that of adult female, but usually paler and duller rufous, and wings also similar, but pale at base of primaries usually hidden at rest, or entirely absent. The inner primaries, secondaries and primary-coverts show broader buffish fringes, while tertials and greater coverts have a blackish subterminal line.

Habitat:It Breeds in tamarisk thickets in river valleys, patches of scrub in dry steppe, in mountains, on hills and barren plains, and in mountains up to 3500 m. In non-breeding quarters, it is found in relatively open country up to 2400 m with scattered bushes, and in dry lowlands, generally preferring drier and thornier vegetation.

Food habits: It eats insects, mostly beetles and crickets and grasshoppers. It also eats some small vertebrates like voles, lizards, and small birds such as leaf-warblers. It also eats berries. It uses sit-and-wait foraging technique, utilizing a variety of lookouts, including wires, fence lines and tree branches. Most of insects taken on ground. It impales the prey on a thorn before eating

Breeding habits: They breed in Apr in South Turkmenistan, May in North Kazakhstan and June in Pakistan. They are single-brooded. The mating normally begins with loud calls by male, which often followed by gliding display-flights of competing males. The 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. The nest-site is chosen by male, and construction is mainly by male. The nest is a deep open cup made from twigs, bark, rootlets, leaves and grass, lined with grass stems, moss and similar soft material above ground in bush, often thorny one. They lay a clutch of 3–7 eggs. The replacement clutches are laid if earlier ones lost. The incubation is done by female. The female is fed on nest by male. The incubation period is 13–17 days. The nestling period is 13–16 days. The young are fed by parents for 1 month after leaving nest. Nests regularly parasitized by Common Cuckoo (Cuculus canorus).