Tuesday, December 21, 2010

Shrike as Estonian Bird 2010

The Estonian Ornithological Society picked has two species of shrikes, the Red-back Shrike (Lanius collurio) and the Great Grey Shrike (Lanius excubitor), as birds of the year 2010.

The birds have a long tail and a strong hooked beak. The male shrike has a typical black eye mask. The red-back shrike is slightly larger than the sparrow while the great grey shrike is about the size of a small thrush.


Shrikes are passerine birds of the family Laniidae. Shrikes are medium-sized birds, up to 50 centimetres in length, with grey, brown, or black and white plumage. Their beaks are hooked, like that of a bird of prey, reflecting their predatory nature, and their calls are strident.Shrikes are known for their habit of catching insects and small vertebrates and impaling their bodies on thorns.

Shrikes can be seen in open and semi-open landscapes. Shrikes are carnivorous birds whose catch consists of larger insects, lizards, frogs, small birds and rodents. They hunt from prominent perches and impale corpses on thorns or barbed wire as a “larder”.

The Red-back shrike is a migratory bird that winters in southern Africa and arrives at our latitude only in the middle of May. In Estonia it is a very common breeding bird whose number in the country has been assessed at 40,000 to 60,000 pairs.

The Great grey shrike can be seen in Estonia all through the year but it is considerably less numerous than the red-back shrike. About 500-600 great grey shrikes spend the winter here, and only 300-500 pairs of them breed in the country.

The great grey shrike and the red-back shrike are to be included in the protected birds.

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