The southern fiscal (Lanius collaris) is a member of the shrike family found through most of Sub-Saharan Africa. It is also sometimes named jackie hangman or butcher bird due to its habit of impaling its prey on acacia thorns to store the food for later consumption. It was previously lumped together with the northern fiscal (Lanius humeralis). Together they were known as the common fiscal.
This is a fairly distinctive 21–23 cm long passerine with white underparts and black upperparts extending from the top of the head down to the tail. The bird has a characteristic white 'V' on the back and a relatively long black tail with white outer feathers and white tips on the other feathers. The bill, eyes and legs are black. Adult male and female Common Fiscals are quite similar except for the rufous lower flank of the female.
- L. c. aridicolus Clancey, 1955 – SW Angola and NW Namibia (dune-fog zone of Namib Desert)
- L. c. collaris Linnaeus, 1766 – extreme S Namibia, S, C & E South Africa, Swaziland, Lesotho, and extreme S Mozambique (Maputo)(except S), Zambia, N Botswana, and possibly also extreme SW Tanzania and extreme NE Namibia
- L. c. marwitzi Reichenow, 1901 Uhehe Fiscal – NE, C and SE Tanzania, N Malawi
- L. c. pyrrhostictus Holub & Pelzeln, 1882 – extreme NE Botswana (around Basuto), S Zimbabwe (S of Harare), NE & E South Africa (Limpopo and Mpumalanga), and SW Mozambique (almost restricted to Gaza province)
- L. c. subcoronatus A. Smith, 1841 – extreme SE Angola, Namibia (excluding coastal NW and extreme S), Botswana, SW Zimbabwe, and N South Africa (S to NW Northern Cape and C Free State)
The southern fiscal is usually solitary and hunts insects and small rodents from an exposed perch or the tops of shrubs. Territorial size is directly related to the density of hunting perches. Installing more artificial perches causes the fiscal to reduce its territory size and allow more birds in the affected range.
It gives a jumbled mix of shrike-like swizzling sounds including some imitations and a harsh Dzzzttt-dzzzt-dzzzt alarm call. Most of those calls however are either threatening or alarm calls. The species sometimes produces a surprisingly sweet, quiet song, although such song, however sweet it sounds, generally is either territorial or pair-bonding in function.
- Ian Sinclair, Phil Hockey and Warwick Tarboton, SASOL Birds of Southern Africa (Struik 2002) ISBN 1-86872-721-1
- Media related to Lanius collaris at Wikimedia Commons
- (Common Fiscal = ) Fiscal Shrike - Species text in The Atlas of Southern African Birds.
- Common Fiscal videos, photos & sounds on the Internet Bird Collection