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Bird Sightings : Hebrides : Isabelline Shrike

Bird Sightings : Isabelline Shrike
Juvenile Isabelline Shrike

Isabelline Shrike

(Red-tailed Shrike, Butcher Bird)

lanius isabellinus

Photograph © Martin Scott
Brue - Isle of Lewis - Outer Hebrides (Western Isles)
22nd September, 2006

Our Shrike Photographs

Isabelline Shrike
Woodchat Shrike


  • Isabelline Shrike
  • lanius isabellinus
  • UK: Scarce visitor
    UK: 1 record a year BTO
  • WI: Very rare visitor - 1 record
  • Breeds: Open cultivated counry with thorn bushes. SW Asia
  • Winters: Africa, India, Middle East
  • Habitat: Open woodland, scrub, savanna, farmland
  • Slightly smaller than a Starling (16-18cm). Adult sandy-greyish brown upper parts. Buff-white underparts,. Distinctive long, rusty-red coloured tail. Usually small white patch on wings. Usually a black eye-mask, rather like the Wheatear
    Diet: Hunts from high perch. Mainly insects (mostly. beetles) also small mammals, birds, lizards. Like other shrikes impales corpses on thorns or barbed wire as a larder
  • Similar birds: Red-backed Shrike, Brown Shrike


This very rare migrant visitor came to us from the South Siberian - Central Asian Steppe, or the Western China tablelands. Somewhere like Kazhakstan. (Quite a detour to the Western Isles!)

In Europe Isabelline Shrike are mostly seen in the Autumn, and they are usually immature, as is the one above which arrived in Brue.This was the first Isabelline Shrike ever recorded in the Western Isles.


Shrikes are insect eaters, but they also eat small birds and mammals, so they have chunky pointed beaks.

One of the folk names for the Shrike in general is the 'Butcher Bird', (Lanius means butcher) they store their catch by impaling it on the thorns of bushes and trees like the Hawthorn, making larders.

Brue has a scarcity of such trees and bushes, so the Isabelline Shrike which visited that area improvised and impaled it's catch upon the nearby barbed wire fences instead.


This is the eastern equivalent of the Red-backed Shrike


There are two races of the Isabelline Shrike which are are sometimes considered as separate species
Turkestan Shrike L. i. phoenicuroides breeds in south Siberia and central Asia
Daurian Shrike L. i. isabellinus winters in the tropics



Isabelline Shrike records in the Western Isles

Very rare visitor - 1 record

On the chart below the darker the shade of blue the more abundant the Isabelline Shrike is during a month or the more likely you are to see it.


The chart below shows how abundant the bird is during a month or when you are more likely to see it.















(Source: Outer Hebrides Birds Checklist)


Other local bird photographs

Sources of information for the bird sightings section

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