Friday, October 31, 2014

Bull-headed Shrike (Lanius bucephalus)



(19 cm.)

The Bull-headed Shrike is a common resident of East China just like its cousin, the Brown Shrike. As a member of the shrike family it shares its family’s love of predation and habits regarding the storage of prey species (see Brown Shrike for more details)

The Bull-headed Shrike, like all shrikes, has a conspicuous mask on the side of its face. Its plumage is darker than the Brown Shrike. Female shrikes are generally duller versions of the males.

This species lives in a similar range in East China to the Brown Shrike, but has a more limited breeding range restricted to the provinces of southern Hei Long Jiang, Liaoning, Hebei, and as far south as Shandong. In winter, it can be found in much of South China from around Shanghai south along the East Coast to Shenzhen. The wintering grounds of the Brown Shrike are limited to a small area around Hong Kong/Shenzhen.

The Bull-headed Shrike shares the Brown Shrikes fondness for open and cultivated habitat including city parks where it can be found sitting on an exposed perch patiently waiting for passing insects and vertebrates such as lizards. It is also known to consume crustaceans in places where they can be found.

In breeding season, the female of this species will lay 2-6 eggs in a nest nestled in a bush or a bamboo tree. She will incubate them for 2 weeks until hatching. Young shrike chicks will be fully-feathered (fledged) in an additional two weeks.

The voice of this bird is harsh and chattering. It will often mimic the calls of other bird species in the manner of a mynah.

Despite its diminutive size, the predatory nature of the Bull-headed Shrike and other members of its family, make it a truly fascinating species.
Photo by Brian Westland

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