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Isabelline Shrike - BirdForum Opus

Photo © by Alok Tewari
Gurgaon, Haryana, India, Jan-2018
Lanius isabellinus

Includes Daurian Shrike
Alternative name: Rufous-tailed Shrike


Isabelline Shrike with its larder
Photo © by the late Jim Wood
Shetland, 2010

17·5–18 cm (6¾-7 in)

  • Sandy-grey upperparts
  • Buffish-white underparts
  • Long rufous tail

Similar Species

Red-tailed Shrike and juvenile Red-backed Shrike.


Central Asia from eastern Kazakhstan and Afghanistan east to Mongolia and western China. Winters in the Sahel region of Africa, the Near East, east to northwestern India. Exact distribution not yet fully determined due to difficulty of separation from closely-related Red-tailed Shrike[1].

A regular autumn vagrant to northwestern Europe.


Photo © by the late Jim Wood
Brake, Shetland Islands, October 2011

Red-tailed Shrike L. phoenicuroides was formerly considered conspecific, the two together then sometimes under the alternative name Rufous-tailed Shrike. Also, even earlier (mid to late 20th century), often considered a subspecies of Red-backed Shrike.


Photo © by Alok Tewari
Dist. Jhajjar, Haryana, India, Dec-2016

There are 3 subspecies[2]:

  • L. i. isabellinus (Daurian Shrike):
  • South-eastern Altai and north-central China; winters to India, eastern and central Africa
  • L. i. arenarius:
  • L. i. tsaidamensis:
  • North-central China (Qinghai); wintering grounds unknown

Owing to past confusion over the subspecific allocation of the type specimen, L. i. arenarius was formerly known as L. i. isabellinus, while L. i. isabellinus was formerly known as L. i. speculigerus[3].


Desert oases, thorn forests, and other scrubby, shrub and woodlands. Also on farmland.



It hunts from a low, exposed perch from which it either glides and hovers to take its prey or drops directly onto it when the prey is below the perch.


Photo © by paux
Inner Mongolia, China, August 2019

Insects are caught in flight. The bird returns to its perch in order to eat or store its prey; it stores food on spikes (twigs, barbed wire, thorns) for later consumption. It impales small mammals before it consumes it and such prey is tackled by eating the head and limbs first.


A nest of dry grass stems lined with soft grass is build and placed in a tree or bush. The 4-8, usually 5-6, eggs are laid late May – late June and are incubated by the female for 15-16 days, while the male feeds her. Both parents feed juveniles, which fledge at 13-14 days.


  1. Worfolk, T. (2000). Identification of red-backed, isabelline and brown shrikes. Dutch Birding 22: 323-362.
  2. Clements, J. F., T. S. Schulenberg, M. J. Iliff, S. M. Billerman, T. A. Fredericks, B. L. Sullivan, and C. L. Wood. 2019. The eBird/Clements Checklist of Birds of the World: v2019. Downloaded from http://www.birds.cornell.edu/clementschecklist/download/
  3. Pearson, D. J. (2000). The races of the Isabelline Shrike Lanius isabellinus and their nomenclature. Bull. Brit. Orn. Club 120: 22-27.
  4. Collins Field Guide 5th Edition
  5. Collins Bird Guide ISBN 0 00 219728 6
  6. Birdforum Member observations

Recommended Citation

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