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Order Song birds/Passeriformes, Family Shrikes/Laniidae

Red-backed Shrike/Lanius collurio - Female

L 16-18 cm. Breeds in open cultivated country, often heaths and pastures with hawthorn, sloe and dog-rose, also on juniper slopes. Sun-loving summer visitor which winters in tropical Africa and returns in May. Insect specialist. Some set up food stores by spearing surplus on bush thorns.
IDENTIFICATION: Often perches upright, when nervous jerks tail sideways. - Adult male: Breast and belly light brownish-pink; no vermiculation on flanks. Throat white. Crown light ash-grey, mantle reddishbrown. Broad black eye-stripe (‘bandit’s mask’), often with narrow white border above and on forehead. Tail black, with white sides at base (wheatear pattern). Sometimes small white patch at base of primaries. - Adult female: Dirty yellow-white below with coarse vermiculations. Crown brown or brownish-grey, nape greyer, mantle duller brown than male; variably vermiculated above. Eye-stripe brown; lores often pale. Tail dark brown with narrow white edges. Rarely more like male. - Juvenile/1st-winter: Like female, but usually more heavily vermiculated above. A few with warmer brown uppertail confusingly like immature Isabelline Shrike (see below).
VOICE: Alarm a nasal, hoarse ‘vehv’, loosely repeated. When highly agitated, series of tongue-clicking ‘tschek’. Song quiet (can be construed as subsong), rather seldom heard; harsh and squeaky sounds mixed with expert mimicry of other birds; can be very much like Marsh Warbler song!

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