This is a spectacularly pretty bird (male) which skewers its prey on thorns - the butcher bird. It is a long-distance migrant to Europe and the near Western parts of the former USSR which migrates by the Eastern route round the Mediterranean and into sub-tropical Africa for the winter.It is a bird of open scrubland and mixed farmland and winters in open savannah.
The male has a grey crown and nape, a huge black eye stripe, pink underparts and very chestnut wings and back. The rump is pale grey and the black tail has white outer feathers. The females are chestnut above and biscuit below with darker bars. These are voracious hunters and have cleverly notched bills to help them tear their prey apart (and latch on to ringers's fingers).
This is a small shrike compared with the grey ones of Europe and North America. They are losing out to modern farming methods. The last regular breeding in Brecklands of Norfolk a few years ago and now regular breeders are extinct in Britain - they were common in Southern England 60 years ago.
Small but very striking European shrike.
Length 170 mm Closed wing 94 mm Weight 30 gms
A Bird On! Sketch by Chris Mead
Copyright © 1996 by Jacobi Jayne & Company and Chris Mead