RSPB
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Conservation status: Introduced

The great grey shrike is the largest of the European shrikes. Small numbers come to the UK in autumn and spend the winter here. They are very territorial so you're unlikely to see more than one at once. Shrikes are often 'mobbed' by other birds which recognise them as dangerous predators. Keep an eye out for a medium-sized, long-tailed bird sitting at the top of a tree. The black mask and grey plumage are distinctive.

Illustrations

Overview

Latin name

Lanius excubitor

Family

Shrikes (Laniidae)

Where to see them

Great grey shrikes visit open areas, including heathland, farmland, scrub, clear-felled areas of forestry and coastal dunes. They need to have perches from which to hunt, so they often sit on fenceposts and high up in trees.

When to see them

Great grey shrikes are regular but scarce visitors to the UK. They arrive, on the east coast at first, in autumn and many stay throughout winter and into spring (sometimes as late as April or May), when they migrate back to their breeding grounds in Scandinavia.

What they eat

Beetles and other insects, small mammals and birds. Food is often stored in a 'larder' by impaling it on a thorn!

Population

EuropeUK breeding*UK wintering*UK passage*
--63 birds-

Distribution