That Sunday evening as I was returning from my photography round, I found this Brown Shrike (Lanius cristatus) sitting on an Indian Almond (Terminalia catappa) Tree. I was quite far away from the bird and there was no way I could approach the bird without startling this vigilant bird. I was holding Canon EOS 5D mark II with Canon EF 300mm f/2.8L IS USM lens fitted with Canon EF 2X II Extender. Evening light was quite weak. I used a higher ISO of 800 to capture this bird. The pictures presented here are cropped by around 50%.
Shrikes are passerine birds of the family Laniidae. The family is composed of thirty-one species in three genera. The family name, and that of the largest genus, Lanius, is derived from the Latin word for “butcher”, and some shrikes were also known as “butcher birds” because of their feeding habits. Shrikes in general have a variety of names that arise from people’s observations of the bird’s feeding and food storage strategy. In Africa they are called as fiscals. That name comes from the Afrikaans word fiskaal (“public official”, especially a hangman)
This species is solitary except when breeding. They are found in open habitats where they can be seen sitting on a prominent perch like a treetop or a telegraph pole. A sit-and-wait hunter, they “hawk” or pounce on their prey, which includes large insects, small birds, reptiles and mammals. These birds use their feet to hold smaller insects whilst they rip them into bite-sized pieces. Larger prey are impaled upon a sharp point, such as a thorn or the barbs of barbed wire so they can be ripped open with the bird’s hooked bill. This also serves as a cache so that the shrike can return to the uneaten portions at a later time. As this looked like butcher’s larder, the name “butcher birds” was given to it. The distinctive black bandit like mask through the eye also might have influenced this name.
The Brown Shrike (Lanius cristatus) is a bird in the shrike family that is found mainly in Asia. It is closely related to the Red-backed Shrike (Lanius collurio) and Isabelline Shrike (Lanius isabellinus). Like most other shrikes, it has a distinctive black “bandit-mask” through the eye. It is found mainly in open scrub habitats, where it perches on the tops of thorny bushes in search of prey. Several populations of this widespread species form distinctive subspecies which breed in temperate Asia and migrate to their winter quarters in tropical Asia. They are sometimes found as vagrants in Europe and North America.
The Brown Shrike is a migratory species and ringing studies show that they have a high fidelity to their wintering sites, returning to the same locations each winter. They begin establishing wintering territories shortly on arrival and their loud chattering or rattling calls are distinctive. Birds that arrive early and establish territories appear to have an advantage over those that arrive later in the winter areas.
The timing of their migration is very regular with their arrival in winter to India in August to September and departure in April. During their winter period, they go through a premigratory moult. Their song in the winter quarters is faint and somewhat resembles the call of the Rosy Starling (Sturnus roseus) and often includes mimicry of other birds. The beak remains closed when singing and only throat pulsations are visible although the bird moves its tail up and down while singing.