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Woodchat Shrike

Woodchat Shrike

Key facts

Scientific name: Lanius senator
UK status: Scarce migrant
Global conservation status: Least concern

Family: 

Length: 18 cm
Wingspan: 27 cm
Weight: 35 g

Description

The woodchat shrike is a small, stocky shrike with a realteively short tail. The male has white underparts and a black back with a broad white patch at the base of the primaries and a white oval on the side of the back. On the head the crown and back of the neck is chestnut and there is a black mask above the bill and through the eyes. The female is similar, but the black mask has white marks, and the cap is paler.

Its scientific name derives from the Latin Lanius meaning butcher due to its feeding habits, and the Latin for senator because its chestnut cap is supposedly the colour of the stripe on the toga of a Roman senator.

A Balearic race badius, which has occurred in the UK, lacks the white patches on the primaries.

Juveniles have a grey, scaled pattern on their underparts, grey-brown upper parts with bars on the white rump and a line of white feathers on the shoulder. They lack the chestnut cap of the adults.

It will often mimic other birds and breeding pairs can often be heard singing duets with the female following the male’s lead.

Diet

Woodchat shrikes eat large insects, small birds, and amphibians. Like many shrikes it hunts from perches and impales its prey on thorns and barbed wire known as a shrike larder.

Listen

François Grimal /xeno-canto

Range & Habitat

Woodchat shrikes breed in central and southern Europe, the Middle East, and northwest Africa in open, bushy country, in orchards, and on sandy ground. It spends the winter in tropical Africa on savannas and the edges of forests.

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