A shrike is a passerine bird of the family Laniidae which is known for its habit of catching insects, small birds or mammals and impaling their bodies on thorns. This helps them to tear the flesh into smaller, more conveniently-sized fragments, and serves as a “larder” so that the shrike can return to the uneaten portions at a later time.
A typical shrike’s beak is hooked, like a bird of prey, reflecting its predatory nature.
Most shrike species occur in Eurasia and Africa, but two breed in North America. There are no members of this family in South America or Australia.
Some shrikes are also known as “butcher birds” because of their habit of keeping corpses. Australasian butcherbirds are not shrikes, although they occupy a similar ecological niche.
Species of Laniidae
- Tiger Shrike, Lanius tigrinus
- Bull-headed Shrike, Lanius bucephalus
- Red-backed Shrike Lanius collurio
- Isabelline Shrike Lanius isabellinus
- Brown Shrike, Lanius cristatus
- Burmese Shrike, Lanius collurioides
- Emin’s Shrike, Lanius gubernator
- Souza’s Shrike, Lanius souzae
- Bay-backed Shrike, Lanius vittatus
- Long-tailed Shrike Lanius schach
- Grey-backed Shrike Lanius tephronotus
- Mountain Shrike or Grey-capped Shrike, Lanius validirostris
- Lesser Grey Shrike Lanius minor
- Loggerhead Shrike, Lanius ludovicianus
- Great Grey Shrike or Northern Shrike Lanius excubitor
- Southern Grey Shrike Lanius meridionalis
- Chinese Grey Shrike, Lanius sphenocercus
- Grey-backed Fiscal, Lanius excubitoroides
- Long-tailed Fiscal, Lanius cabanisi
- Taita Fiscal, Lanius dorsalis
- Somali Fiscal, Lanius somalicus
- Mackinnon’s Shrike, Lanius mackinnoni
- Common Fiscal, Lanius collaris
- Newton’s Fiscal, Lanius newtoni
- Uhehe Shrike, Lanius marwitzi
- Woodchat Shrike, Lanius senator
- Masked Shrike, Lanius nubicus
- Yellow-billed Shrike, Corvinella corvina
- Northern White-crowned Shrikes or White-rumped Shrikes, Eurocephalus rueppelli
- White-crowned Shrike, Eurocephalus anguitimens
- Magpie Shrike, Urolestes melanoleucus
Other species, popularly called “shrikes,” are in the families:
- Prionopidae, helmetshrikes.
- Malaconotidae, puffback shrikes, bush shrikes, tchagras and boubous.
- Campephagidae, cuckoo-shrikes.
The Prionopidae and Malaconotidae are quite closely related to the Laniidae, and were formerly included in the shrike family. The cuckoo-shrikes are not closely related to the true shrikes.