Lanius nubicus Lichtenstein, 1823 ♂
Common names: Masked shrike [En], Pie-grièche masquée [Fr], Maskenwürger [De], Alcaudón núbico [Es], Παρδαλοκεφαλάς [Gr], Alaca örümcek kuşu [Tu]
IUCN Status: LC (Least Concern)
Kerkini, SERRES ● Greece
Description: The masked shrike is the smallest of its genus, a slender bird, measuring 17–18.5 cm long with a 24–26.5 cm wingspan. It has a long tail and relatively small bill, on each side of which is a tomial tooth; the upper mandible bears a triangular ridge which fits a corresponding notch in the lower mandible. This adaptation is otherwise only found in falcons.
The male has mainly black upperparts, a white crown, forehead and supercilium. There are large white patches on the shoulders and primaries, and the outermost tail feathers are also white. The throat, neck sides and underparts are white, with orange on the flanks and breast. The iris is brown, the bill is black and the legs are dark brown or black.
The female is a duller version of the male, with brownish-black upperparts and a grey or buff tinge to the white shoulder patches and underparts. The juvenile has grey-brown upperparts with darker bars from the head to rump, a paler grey forehead, barred off-white underparts and brown wings with white primary patches.
Masked shrikes are most similar in appearance to woodchat shrikes, but are smaller, more slender and longer-tailed. Adults of the two species are easily distinguished, since the masked shrike has white on its head and a dark rump, whereas the woodchat shrike has a black crown, rusty nape and white rump. Juveniles are more similar, but the masked shrike has a longer tail, paler face, and grey back and rump, whereas the woodchat shrike has a sandy back and pale grey rump.
Biology: The masked shrike feeds mainly on large insects, although other arthropods and small vertebrates are also caught. Like its relatives, the masked shrike hunts from a perch, typically 3–8 m high, although usually in less exposed locations than those favoured by most other shrikes. The kill may be impaled on thorns or barbed wire as a "larder" for immediate or later consumption.
The nest, built in a tree by both sexes, is a small, neat cup of rootlets, stems and twigs, lined with wool or hair, and adorned with lichen externally. The normal clutch is 4–6 eggs, which are incubated by the female for 14–16 days until hatching.
The masked shrike is a solitary species except when on migration. It maintains a breeding territory of 2–5 ha.
Habitat: Open woodland with bushes and some large trees in lowlands and in hills up to 1,000 m, up to 2,000 m in some areas. Unlike its relatives, it avoids very open, lightly vegetated country. Orchards and other cultivated land with suitable old trees or large hedges are also used by this species.
Distribution: The masked shrike breeds in the Balkans, northeast Greece and some of the Greek islands, Turkey, Cyprus and from Syria south to Israel. It also nests in eastern Iraq and western Iran. It is migratory, wintering south of the Sahara, mainly in Chad, Sudan and Ethiopia.
Wikipedia, Masked shrike