Small; black and white; belly pale greyish; white wingstripe and spot; bill slim; tail black with 2 rectangular white windows. Arid scrub and dry savanna of S Africa. Common resident.
Measurements: Length 17-20 cm; wing (24 male) 91-95,6-98, (8 female) 87-89,8-93; tail (32) 73-89; tarsus (32) 21-24,5; culmen (32) 13,5-17,5. Weight (12 male) 22,9-25,6-31 g, (10 female) 23,6-26,9-37 g, (163 unsexed) 21-26,2-34,7 g.
Bare Parts: Iris reddish brown; bill, legs and feet black.
Identification: Large (about robin-sized). Breeding: above jet black (male) or sooty blackish brown (female) to below eye; bold white wingstripe; tail black with large rectangular white windows (conspicuous in flight; diagnostic); below white or pale greyish white; similar to Fiscal Shrike but tail rounded (not longish and graduated), bill slender (not stout and hooked), head more slender; does not perch with tail held sideways as does Fiscal Shrike. Nonbreeding: Above slaty grey; face mask black; below greyish white; otherwise as breeding plumage. Immature: Above reddish brown, spotted buffy white; below off-white, spotted dark brown.
Voice: Song shorter or longer phrases of mixed thin sibilant and richer piping notes, tsip tsip chuk tweeu-kik-rrr, tswippy tswip trree-up-up, tsippy tsip twee-up, etc.; imitates other birdcalls; sharp skisk and kirr-kirr-kirr alarm calls.
Distribution: Most of S Africa, Lesotho, Swaziland, extreme se Botswana and extreme s Mozambique.
Status: Common resident subject to much local movement in winter; winter visitor to lowland KwaZulu-Natal and Mozambique, May to September.