Great Grey Shrike

Scientific name: Lanius excubitor

Did you know: The Great Grey Shrike, a winter visitor to the UK, is known for its unique hunting behaviour of impaling its prey on thorns, a practice that earned it the moniker ‘sentinel butcher’.

What Do Great Grey Shrikes Look Like? (how to identify them)

Great Grey Shrikes, the largest of the European shrikes, present a striking image with their grey plumage, long tails, and distinctive black masks

These medium-sized birds are easily identified when perched atop trees, surveying their territory. Their plumage is predominantly grey with touches of brown and white, and they boast a robust black beak, perfect for their carnivorous diet.

Differences Between Male And Female Great Grey Shrikes

Males and females are similar in appearance, with subtle differences. The male typically has more pronounced markings and stronger colouration, while the female may have fainter bars on their breast and a slightly duller hue.

What Do Great Grey Shrikes Eat?

These predatory birds have a diverse diet, consisting mainly of beetles, insects, small mammals, and birds. They are known for their unique habit of storing food in a ‘larder’, often impaling it on thorns or barbed wire for later consumption.

Where Do Great Grey Shrikes Live? (inc. migration info)

Great Grey Shrikes are visitors to the UK during autumn and winter. Preferring open landscapes like farmland, heathland, and wet grasslands, they spend winters in the UK before migrating back to their breeding grounds in northern Europe and Asia.

Bird Calls & Songs (the unique voices of Great Grey Shrikes)

Their vocal repertoire includes a loud, barking ‘rah-rah-rah’ and a series of clicking ‘kek’ calls. Deep growls are also part of their auditory display, particularly during the mating season.

Fun Great Grey Shrike Facts (kid friendly)

  • They catch and store their food in a unique way.
  • Usually seen alone, perched high up in trees.
  • They visit the UK in winter, migrating from colder regions.
  • Very protective of their space.
  • Can mimic the calls of other birds to attract them.
  • Build nests in trees or dense bushes.
  • Their diet varies from insects to small birds.
  • Known for their undulating and determined flight.
  • Numbers have increased due to conservation efforts.

Great Grey Shrike Images

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Male
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Female
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Hatchling
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Nestling
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Chick
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Fledgling
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Juvenile

Facts About The Great Grey Shrike

Diet: Beetles and other insects, small mammals and birds. Food is often stored in a 'larder' by impaling it on a thorn!
Bird Family: Shrikes
Scientific Name: Lanius excubitor

The Great Grey Shrike Can Be Seen In The UK During The Following Months

  • January
  • February
  • March
  • April
  • September
  • October
  • November
  • December