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Northern Fiscal - BirdForum Opus

Photo by AlexA
Masai Mara, Kenya, August 2005
Lanius humeralis


A pied, heavy-bodied, heavy-billed bird with white wing-bar extending to the shoulders. Female has rufous flanks.


Sub-Saharan Africa: Guinea to Eritrea and Ethiopia, south to southern Tanzania, northern Mozambique, Angola, Zambia and Malawi.



There are 3 subspecies[1]:

  • L. c. smithii:
  • L. c. humeralis:
  • L. c. capelli:

Formerly included in Common Fiscal together with Southern Fiscal.


Found in woodland and open savanna, shrubland with scattered trees. Common around cities, gardens, parks and along roadsides.


Compared to the rest of the shrikes, the Northern Fiscal is quite unusual in that a pair will hold a territory throughout the year. Most of the true shrike species (genus Lanius) from the northern hemisphere are migratory, breeding in the northern hemisphere and spending the austral summer in the southern hemisphere.


The Northern Fiscal is raptorial and feeds on a wide range of invertebrates, notably insects and small vertebrates. Vertebrates comprise a very small portion of its diet and most of its prey are those considered pests to the farmer or gardener. Its main hunting method is sit-and-wait foraging and about three-quarters of its day is spent on the lookout for prey. It also hovers before pouncing and chases and flushes prey out of undergrowth. When flying insects are numerous, such as when winged termites emerge from the ground, the bird will hunt on the wing and in very windy conditions when flight becomes impossible, it will glean prey from foliage.


Common Fiscals breed mainly between the months of August and January, with most eggs being laid in September and October. They lay three or four pale, speckled eggs, which hatch about two and a half weeks after being laid, usually over a period of two days and often one or two eggs fail to hatch.


  1. Clements, J. F., T. S. Schulenberg, M. J. Iliff, D. Roberson, T. A. Fredericks, B. L. Sullivan, and C. L. Wood. 2017. The eBird/Clements checklist of birds of the world: v2017, with updates to August 2017. Downloaded from http://www.birds.cornell.edu/clementschecklist/download/
  2. Avibase

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