Family Shrikes (Laniidae)

Least Concern

Common Fiscal (Lanius collaris)


French: Pie-grièche fiscale German: Fiskalwürger Spanish: Alcaudón fiscal
Other common names: Uhehe Fiscal (marwitzi)

Lanius collaris


, 1766,

Cape of Good Hope, South Africa


Recent analysis#R supports division into “Northern Fiscal” and “Southern Fiscal” as outlined in HBW, and considerable differences between songs (score 3) from Liberia to Kenya and those in South Africa#R. However, (a) “Southern Fiscal” would incorporate race marwitzi (separate species in HBW) even though isolated by intervening capelli (of N group); (b) huge area of CS Africa unsampled vocally and genetically; (c) differences in sexual dimorphism subtle to non-existent; (d) claims of distinct visual displays cannot be confirmed. Finding that morphologically distinctive L. souzae is sister to “Southern Fiscal” appears to strengthen case for split, but integrative analysis of evidence needed before making change#R. In Lesotho, nominate race and subcoronatus partly sympatric, but interbreeding and occurrence of hybrids limited, suggesting that the two may be separate species#R. Races intergrade in many areas; delimitation of forms sometimes uncertain. Race aridicolus often merged with subcoronatus, but geographically isolated in Namib region; pyrrhostictus sometimes included in nominate. Other proposed races are predator (Ingwavuma, in NE KwaZulu-Natal), subsumed most often into nominate, sometimes into pyrrhostictus; vigilans (Kloof, in E KwaZulu-Natal), synonymized with nominate; and dominator (Muchinga Range, in SC Zambia), merged with capelli. Eight subspecies currently recognized.

Subspecies and Distribution
  • L. c. smithii (Fraser, 1843) – S Mauritania (rare), S Mali (rare) and from S Guinea, Sierra Leone and Liberia E to Central African Republic, N Congo, SW South Sudan and W Uganda.
  • L. c. humeralis Stanley, 1814 – Northern Fiscal – C Eritrea, C & S Ethiopia, SE South Sudan, E Uganda, W Kenya, Tanzania, N Malawi and N Mozambique; probably also NE Zambia.
  • L. c. capelli (Bocage, 1879) – S Gabon and S Congo E to S DRCongo, extreme SW Uganda, Rwanda and Burundi, and S to Angola (except S), Zambia and N Botswana, possibly also extreme SW Tanzania and extreme NE Namibia.
  • L. c. marwitzi Reichenow, 1901 – highlands from NE to SC Tanzania (Mpwapwa and Ukagurus S to Njombe, Mt Rungwe and Tukuyu).
  • L. c. aridicolus Clancey, 1955 – SW Angola and NW Namibia (dune-fog zone of Namib Desert).
  • L. c. subcoronatus A. Smith, 1841 – extreme SE Angola, Namibia (excluding coastal NW and extreme S), Botswana, SW Zimbabwe and N South Africa (S to NW Northern Cape and C Free State).
  • L. c. pyrrhostictus Holub & Pelzeln, 1882 – extreme NE Botswana (around Basuto), S Zimbabwe (S of Harare), NE & E South Africa (Limpopo and Mpumalanga) and SW Mozambique (almost restricted to Gaza Province).
  • L. c. collaris Linnaeus, 1766 – Southern Fiscal – extreme S Namibia, S, C & E South Africa, Swaziland, Lesotho and extreme S Mozambique (Maputo).
  • Descriptive notes

    21–23 cm; 25–58 g. A medium-large black-and-white shrike with long, thin, graduated tail. Male nominate race has top and sides of head to mantle and back black,... read more


    Song, by both sexes throughout year, variable, consists of a full-throated, disjointed medley of... read more


    Open areas with short grass and scattered shrubs, including woodland and open savanna, often with... read more

    Food and feeding

    Wide food spectrum includes mainly invertebrates, fewer vertebrates; occasionally seeds. Invertebrates include, among others, crickets,... read more


    Breeds mainly in rainy season when food abundant (especially in relatively arid areas), mostly Feb–Aug in W Africa, Aug–Nov in... read more


    Mainly resident and sedentary throughout most of range. No large-scale movements reported, but some... read more

    Status and conservation

    Not globally threatened (Least Concern). Common to abundant in most of range; locally uncommon, and rare in extreme NW parts. Has become more numerous as a result of urban... read more

    Recommended citation

    Yosef, R., International Shrike Working Group & Kirwan, G.M. (2020). Common Fiscal (Lanius collaris). 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 26 February 2020).