Shrikes (Family: Laniidae)

Learn all about the fierce predatory songbirds known as shrikes.

May 8, 2023

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Shrikes (Family: Laniidae)


This episode is all about shrikes—birds in the family Laniidae.

These are true songbirds—members of the avian suborder Passeri within the order Passeriformes—even though they act (and sort of look like) tiny falcons or hawks.

Shrikes are sit and wait predators. They typically sit upright on an exposed, conspicuous perch and then wait for something tasty to come along. Some small animal, like a Vesper Sparrow, a rodent, lizard, grasshopper, and so on.

Shrikes are such cool birds that they have many fans among ornithologists. In fact, there’s a subdiscipline of ornithology called shrikeology. For real. And those who study these fascinating birds are known as shrikeologists.

So for today, at least, let’s all be honorary shrikeologists. Let’s get down to the nitty-gritty details of shrike biology.

Errors and Updates

  • I said that Germans call the Great Gray Shrike "Nine Murder." Several of my German listeners emailed and kindly corrected me. The species they call Nine Murder is the Red-backed Shrike.

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Links of Interest

Research Citations


Great Gray Shrike (Lanius excubitor) with impaled rodent prey. Photo by Yakubovich Dmitry/Adobe
Red-backed Shrike (Lanius collurio). Photo by CreativeNature_nl/Envato
Loggerhead Shrike (Lanius ludovicianus). Photo by Griffin/Adobe
Magpie Shrike (Lanius melanoleucus). Photo by Derek Keats/Wikimedia
Yellow-billed Shrike (Lanius corvinus). Photo by Charles J. Sharp/Wikimedia


  • Loggerhead Shrike sounds (Xeno Canto recording XC224812)
  • Great Gray Shrike sounds (Xeno Canto recording XC781594)
  • Red-backed Shrike sounds (Xeno Canto recording XC364540)
  • Southern Fiscal sounds (Xeno Canto recording XC392534)
  • Bull-headed Shrike sounds (Xeno Canto recording XC194693)
  • Burmese Shrike sounds (Xeno Canto recording XC295747)
  • Yellow-billed Shrike sounds (Xeno Canto recording XC444637)

This work by Ivan Phillipsen is licensed under CC BY-NC-SA 4.0

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