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Red-backed Shrike - BirdForum Opus

Male (left) and female
Photo © by Pavlik
Saratov oblast, Russia, May 2003
Lanius collurio


Length 17 cm, weight 23-34 g
Rufous-brown above and creamy to pink below. Looks 'long' in flight.
Blue-grey head and rump, with a bold black eye-stripe. Black tail with white sides (superficially reminiscent of Northern Wheatear)
Browner; head grey-brown with a dark cheek patch. 'Scaly' with crescent-shaped feather fringes on underparts

Photo © by teodor
Romania, August 2008

Brown above with dark bars. 'Scaly' with crescent-shaped feather fringes covering the body.


Red-backed Shrike was formerly a fairly common summer visitor to the UK, but is now only a sporadic breeder. It can still be seen on passage, mainly on the east coast. It still breeds - though often at low density - in most of mainland Europe and northwest Asia (east to western Siberia) between roughly 40° to 65°N latitude. According to The Birds of the Western Palearctic - Concise Edition there were an estimated 200,000 - 210,000 pairs in Ukraine in 1986, and the population is fairly stable. It also breeds in southwest Asia from Turkey to northwest Iran. Further east, it is replaced by Brown Shrike, and southeast, by Isabelline Shrike; some hybridisation with both occurs where their ranges meet.

The birds winter in tropical and southern Africa.


Male in his 'larder'
Photo © by cango
Tyresö, Sweden, 5 June 2015

This is a monotypic species[1].


Heathland, overgrown hedges and ditches, and low-intensity farmland.



Nests in trees, bushes or bramble thickets.


The diet includes large insects, small birds, voles and lizards.
As with most other shrike species, it impales its prey on spikes.


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  1. 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/
  2. Birdwatchers Pocket Guide ISBN 1-85732-804-3
  3. Collins Pocket Guide to British Birds 1966
  4. Collins Field Guide 5th Edition

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