bird picture.

Brown shrike

The brown shrike, the “butcher bird”


Length: 20 cm  Weight:  Male: 27-34 grams – Female: 28-37 grams

The brown shrike (Lanius cristatus) is small, migratory bird with brown upperparts and creme-whitish underparts. He often seen perches in upright stance. Like other types of shrikes, he has a black “bandit mask” through the eye.

Don’t be fooled by their adorable appearance and their small size. Brown shrikes are ruthless killers: they are known as “butcher birds”, hunting from perches and impale their prey on horny branches.

The Brown Shrike has four subspecies that differ in plumage pattern and coloration: L.c. cristatus, L.c. confusus, L.c. superciliosus, and L.c. lucionensis.

brown shrike birding in Hong Kong


Most of the time, the brown shrike is silent. When the breeding season comes all of a sudden he makes a voice that sounds like a high-pitched squawking. Its alarm call sounds like a harsh and repeated “chak-ak-ak-ak-ak” or “kichi-kichi-kichi”. The male brown shrike imitate songs and calls of other birds to attract them.


Brown shrikes feed on insects, small birds, reptiles and mammals.


The breeding season of the brown shrike usually takes place in spring, with a laying of the 4/6 reddish-white eggs with darker spots in May/June. Couples produce a single brood per season. If she loses the first egg the chick hatch, the female replaces the clutch. She will incubate the eggs alone during 12-14 days and during that time the male will fee her on the nest.

Male and female build the nest together, although the female does most of the work during one week.

birding in hong kong, brown shrike


Even though the brown shrike population is declining, the bird is not globally threatened, and is evaluated as Least Concern.
French: Pie-grièche brune
English: Brown Shrike
German: Braunwürger
Spanish: Alcaudón Pardo
Italian: Averla bruna

Facts about brown shrikes 

The brown shrike is monogamous. The male pursues the female while flying to attract her. He sings for her and appears aggressive towards other males. He goes shrike goes to great lengths to seduce her: he performs some displays of bowing dance, mimics te action of impaling a prey and feeds her.
A group of brown shrikes are collectively known as an “abattoir” and a “watch” of shrikes.

brown shrike on a branch in Hong Kong

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