Family Shrikes (Laniidae)

Least Concern

Brown Shrike (Lanius cristatus)


French: Pie-grièche brune German: Braunwürger Spanish: Alcaudón pardo

Lanius cristatus


, 1758,

Bengal, India


In past, sometimes considered conspecific with L. collurio or L. isabellinus, or both, but recent genetic analyses support treatment as separate species. Occasional hybridization with L. collurio recorded in C Asia. Races form three distinctive groups: single-taxon “superciliosus group” brighter than others, male bright rufous above, with wider white frontal band merging with broad white supercilium, strongly contrasting jet-black mask, orange-tinged below; single-taxon “lucionensis group” much greyer than others, with narrower supercilium, male with light grey crown and nape, brownish-grey upperparts, russet-brown rump, buff lower underparts; and “cristatus group”. Geographical variation partially clinal; race confusus poorly differentiated, intergrading with nominate and perhaps better merged with it. Four subspecies currently recognized.

Subspecies and Distribution
  • L. c. cristatus Linnaeus, 1758 – Northern Brown Shrike – C & E Siberia S to N Mongolia, L Baikal area, N Sakhalin, E Chukotka and Kamchatka; non-breeding C & S India, Sri Lanka, Bangladesh, Myanmar (mainly coast) and Malay Peninsula.
  • L. c. confusus Stegmann, 1929 – E Mongolia, SE Russia (SE Transbaikalia E to Amurland and Ussuriland) and NE China; non-breeding S Malay Peninsula and Sumatra.
  • L. c. superciliosus Latham, 1801 – Japanese Brown Shrike – coastal Russian Far East, S Sakhalin, S Kuril Is and N & C Japan (Hokkaido, N & C Honshu); non-breeding mainly coastal S China, Hainan, NE & E Indochina, Sumatra, Java and W Lesser Sundas.
  • L. c. lucionensis Linnaeus, 1766 – Philippine Brown Shrike – N & E China, Korea, S Japan (Kyushu), and recently found in E Mongolia#R; non-breeding mainly coastal SE China, Taiwan, Philippines, N Borneo and N Sulawesi.
  • Descriptive notes

    17–20 cm; male 27–34 g, female 28–37 g. A medium-sized shrike with rather large head. Male nominate race has black facial mask from lores back to rear ear-... read more


    Male song a repeated trilling “jun-jun-jun” and/or “kichi-kichi-kichi” and/... read more


    Generally in open areas with bushes and scattered small trees, but variable; sometimes in urban... read more

    Food and feeding

    Diet mainly insects, also other arthropods and small vertebrates. Orthoptera and beetles (Coleoptera) usually main prey; vertebrates taken... read more


    Laying from Jun in Siberia and S Ussuriland, from end May on Sakhalin and in Amurland, and from May in E China; in Japan laying from late... read more


    Nominate race, confusus and superciliosus migratory; lucionensis... read more

    Status and conservation

    Not globally threatened (Least Concern). Few data on population levels. Possibly fairly common in much of range; uncommon to rare in Japan. No information on current status... read more

    Recommended citation

    Yosef, R. & International Shrike Working Group (2019). Brown Shrike (Lanius cristatus). In: del Hoyo, J., Elliott, A., Sargatal, J., Christie, D.A. & de Juana, E. (eds.). Handbook of the Birds of the World Alive. Lynx Edicions, Barcelona. (retrieved from on 19 November 2019).