Family Shrikes (Laniidae)

Least Concern

Great Grey Shrike (Lanius excubitor)


French: Pie-grièche grise German: Raubwürger Spanish: Alcaudón norteño

Lanius excubitor


, 1758,

Europe = Sweden


Until mid-1990s treated as conspecific with L. meridionalis, which then included taxa immediately to S. DNA study#R, however, suggests that meridionalis is monotypic and that Canarian, N African, Middle Eastern and Russian taxa (as far as R Yenisey) belong in present species, with race pallidirostris (sometimes considered a species, “Steppe Grey Shrike”) parapatric or even marginally sympatric with race mollis of L. borealis in Mongolia#R; further changes expected with more complete genetic and vocal analyses. Race theresae sometimes subsumed into aucheri. Proposed race leucopterus (upper R Naryn, in Kyrgyzstan) synonymized with homeyeri, and jebelmarrae (SW Sudan) with leucopygus. Last-mentioned is often misspelt leucopygos, but original was written in ablative case, “Lanio leucopygo”, which must be emended to corresponding nominate form, leucopygus; author of this taxon is Ehrenberg (not with Hemprich)#R. Twelve subspecies provisionally recognized.

Subspecies and Distribution
  • L. e. excubitor Linnaeus, 1758 – Great Grey Shrike – N, C & NE Europe (E from Scandinavia and C France) E to NW Siberia (lower R Ob), S to S Russia (Kazan area); non-breeding S Scandinavia, Britain and W & S France E to Asia Minor, Caucasus and Transcaspia.
  • L. e. homeyeri Cabanis, 1873 – SE Europe (E Balkans, Bulgaria, S Romania, Ukraine E to foothills of S Urals) and SW Siberia (E to N foothills of Altai, including Naryn region); non-breeding SW & C Asia.
  • L. e. algeriensis Lesson, 1839 – NW Africa along Atlantic and Mediterranean coasts E to N Tunisia and N Libya (N Tripolitania, N Cyrenaica), S to coastal NW Mauritania and N Sahara.
  • L. e. koenigi E. J. O. Hartert, 1901 – Canary Is.
  • L. e. elegans Swainson, 1832 – N & C Sahara from NE Mauritania, NW Mali, and S Tunisia E to C & S Libya, Egypt (including N & C Sinai), NE Sudan (S to Port Sudan) and SW Israel; possibly NE Niger.
  • L. e. leucopygus Ehrenberg, 1833 – S Sahara in C & S Mauritania, C Mali, C & S Niger, NE Nigeria (probably also extreme N Cameroon), S Chad and S Sudan (including Darfur).
  • L. e. aucheri Bonaparte, 1853 – E Sudan (S from Port Sudan), Eritrea, N Ethiopia, NW Somalia, Syria (rare), SE Israel, SE Sinai Peninsula, Arabian Peninsula, Iraq, S Iran.
  • L. e. theresae R. Meinertzhagen, 1953 – S Lebanon and N Israel.
  • L. e. buryi L. Lorenz von Liburnau & Hellmayr, 1901 – Yemen.
  • L. e. uncinatus P. L. Sclater & Hartlaub, 1881 – Socotra I.
  • L. e. lahtora (Sykes, 1832) – Pakistan (except N) and N India (foothills of Himalayas) S to Karnataka, E to C Bangladesh.
  • L. e. pallidirostris Cassin, 1851 – Steppe Grey Shrike#RC Asia from NW Caspian Sea (extreme S Russia) and S Kazakhstan E to Mongolia and N China (Xinjiang E to Inner Mongolia) and, in W, S to NE Iran, Afghanistan, N Pakistan and W foothills of Tien Shan.
  • Descriptive notes

    24–25 cm; 48–81 g. A rather large shrike with medium-length tail; white of scapulars, wing and tail conspicuous in flight. Male nominate race has narrow black... read more


    Song consists of short, repeated verses, interrupted by longer intervals of silence; usually... read more


    Breeds in subarctic and temperate climates in open country with trees, bushes, fence posts and... read more

    Food and feeding

    Highly opportunistic and flexible in use of different food spectra, as well as in hunting tactics. Diet consists mainly of small... read more


    Lays from end of Mar to end of May, replacement clutches to early Jul; Mar–Jun in C Europe; one brood, very rarely two; season on... read more


    Most populations migratory or at least partially so, non-breeding range including S parts of... read more

    Status and conservation

    Not globally threatened (Least Concern). Until recently treated as conspecific with L. meridionalis and separate evaluation first carried out in 2017. Locally common... read more

    Recommended citation

    Yosef, R., International Shrike Working Group, Sharpe, C.J., Marks, J.S. & Kirwan, G.M. (2020). Great Grey Shrike (Lanius excubitor). 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 29 February 2020).