Isabelline Shrike

The Isabelline Shrike (Lanius isabellinus) is a member of the shrike family Laniidae. It is the eastern equivalent of the Red-backed Shrike Lanius collurio with which it used to be considered conspecific.

The Isabelline Shrike breeds throughout south Siberia and central Asia (race L. i. phoenicuroides) as well as China (race L. i. Isabellinus. Both winter in the tropics.

It breeds in open, cultivated country, preferably with thorn bushes.

This migratory medium-sized passerine eats large insects, small birds, voles and lizards. Like other shrikes it hunts from prominent perches, and impales corpses on thorns or barbed wire as a “larder”.

The plumage is the sandy color, which gives rise to its name, and its tail is red.

Juvenile birds can be distinguished from young Red-backed Shrikes by the much sparser vermiculations on the underparts.

This species is a scarce vagrant to western Europe, including Great Britain, usually in autumn.