Masked shrike

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Masked Shrike
Lanius nubicus.jpg
Conservation status
Scientific classification
Kingdom: Animalia
Phylum: Chordata
Class: Aves
Order: Passeriformes
Family: Laniidae
Genus: Lanius
Species: L. nubicus
Binomial name
Lanius nubicus
Lichtenstein, 1823
Lanius nubicus distr.png

     Summer      Winter[2]

The Masked Shrike ( Lanius nubicus) is a member of the shrike family Laniidae. It breeds in southeastern Europe and the eastern end of the Mediterranean, with a separate population in western Iran. It is a common species in Turkey, Cyprus, Israel and Syria. It is migratory, wintering in northeast Africa. Since this is a short-range migrant, a bird in Scotland in October 2004 was a remarkable example of vagrancy, though a second British record occurred on St. Mary's in the Isles of Scilly in November 2006.[3]


The male Masked Shrike is a striking bird, with black and white plumage and orange flanks. This medium-sized passerine is the smallest shrike at 17–18 cm in length. Its upperparts, crown, long tail and wings are mainly black; there are large white patches on the wings which are conspicuous in flight. The face is white except for a broad black line running back from the eye. The rest of the underparts are white with orange flanks. In the female and young birds the upperparts are dark grey rather than black, and the orange flanks are less bright and reduced in extent. The juvenile has heavily vermiculated grey upperparts, and white underparts which are also vermiculated. Masked Shrike breeds in open woodland and cultivated country. The nest is built in a tree and 4-7 eggs are laid. The song is a somewhat jagged warble.

Masked Shrike eats large insects, small birds, voles and lizards which it impales on thorns or barbed wire as a "larder". It sometimes hunts from prominent perches, like other shrikes, but as often from semi-cover.

Cultural references[edit]

  • In the 1963 movie The Great Escape, a P.O.W. named Colin Blythe, aka 'the forger' (Donald Pleasence) teaches bird identification lessons - in fact to cover his forgering activities. In the scene, there is a drawing of a masked shrike on a blackboard, which Colin describes as "the butcherbird", plumed in "uniform black above, from head to tail". At this point a black-clad prison camp guard is seen entering. Colin continues his description, describing the behaviour of the bird as "unlovable" because it is said to throw its preys on thorn bushes, a clear innuendo to the barbed wires surrounding the camp. The guard comments that he has "better things to do than draw birds", after which Colin continues that the Shrike's voice "is a monotonous succession of scratchy, complaining notes."
Female Riyadh, KSA 1992
Lanius nubicus - MHNT
A female in Israel


  1. ^ BirdLife International (2012). "Lanius nubicus". IUCN Red List of Threatened Species. Version 2013.2. International Union for Conservation of Nature. Retrieved 26 November 2013. 
  2. ^ Tony Harris & Kim Franklin (2000). Shrikes and Bush-Shrikes. Helm. ISBN 0-7136-3861-3. 
  3. ^ Stoddart, Andy; Joyner, Steve (2007). "Masked Shrike, St Mary's - November 1, 2006. First for Scilly and England". Isles of Scilly Bird and Natural History Review 2006: 114–5. 

External links[edit]