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Complex, and potentially liable to further revision. Was formerly considered conspecific with Southern Grey Shrike, and some populations of this may need to be returned to Great Grey Shike. Populations from northeastern Asia and North America formerly included here have recently been split as Northern Shrike.
L. e. excubitor, first-winter Photo by IanF Coatham Wood, Longnewton, County Durham, UK, February 2012
This is a polytypic species currently treated as consisting of two subspecies
L. e. excubitor: Western and northern Europe to northwestern Siberia
Small white patch at base of primaries; minimal white above black mask
L. e. homeyeri: Balkan Peninsula to southern Ural Mountains and western Siberia
Large white patch at base of primaries; broader white band above black mask; overall slightly paler than L. e. excubitor
The two subspecies intergrade where their ranges meet. A further subspecies L. e. leucopterus (western Siberia to the Yenisey River) was often accepted in the past, but is now included within L. e. homeyeri.
Olsson, U. et al. (2009). The Lanius excubitor (Aves, Passeriformes) conundrum â€” Taxonomic dilemma when molecular and non-molecular data tell different stories. Molecular Phylogenetics and Evolution 55: 347â€“357.