Family Shrikes (Laniidae)

Least Concern

Isabelline Shrike (Lanius isabellinus)


French: Pie-grièche isabelle German: Isabellwürger Spanish: Alcaudón isabel

Lanius isabellinus

Hemprich and Ehrenberg

, 1833,

Gumfuda (= Al Qunfidhah), Arabia


See L. collurio. Until fairly recently considered conspecific with L. phoenicuroides (which see). Nomenclature of races recently revised#R, as true identity of nominate isabellinus had been confused: race arenarius previously treated as nominate, until examination of the type specimen of isabellinus (collected on non-breeding grounds in W Arabia) showed it instead to be identical to the form hitherto listed as speculigerus; as a result, form previously known as speculigerus becomes nominate, with name speculigerus as a synonym, while form previously treated as nominate takes the oldest available name applicable to it, arenarius. Races form two groups, treated by some Russian authors as two separate species, but nominate race probably intergrades with arenarius in N China (S Inner Mongolia). Three subspecies recognized.

Subspecies and Distribution
  • L. i. isabellinus Hemprich & Ehrenberg, 1833 – Daurian Isabelline Shrike – Mongolia (except NW) and S & E Russian Transbaikalia S to NW & N China (SE Altai and NE slopes of Tien Shan, in NE Xinjiang, E to C Inner Mongolia); non-breeding mainly Arabia and NE Africa.
  • L. i. arenarius Blyth, 1846 – Chinese Isabelline Shrike – W & NC China from SE slopes of Tien Shan and Tarim Basin E to NW Gansu and W Inner Mongolia, S to Ningxia; non-breeding mainly Pakistan and N India.
  • L. i. tsaidamensis Stegmann, 1930 – WC China (Qaidam Basin, in N Qinghai); non-breeding mainly Pakistan and N India.
  • Descriptive notes

    16·5–18 cm; 26–33·5 g (see also L. phoenicuroides). Rather small, compact but long-tailed shrike, with calls and behaviour as L.... read more


    Considered a much better singer than L. cristatus, and calls somewhat reminiscent of those... read more


    Breeds in tamarisk (Tamarix) thickets in river valleys, patches of scrub in dry steppe, in... read more

    Food and feeding

    Most data pertain to either this species or L. phoenicuroides. Almost exclusively insectivorous. Prefers mostly beetles (of... read more


    Season Apr–Aug in W China; usually single-brooded, but double-brooding reported in China. Mating normally begins with loud calls by... read more


    Migratory. Precise range in non-breeding season, especially in Africa clouded by previous lumping... read more

    Status and conservation

    Not globally threatened (Least Concern). Not well known; probably not uncommon in much of range, but locally uncommon. Global population size not quantified, but believed not... read more

    Recommended citation

    Yosef, R., International Shrike Working Group & Kirwan, G.M. (2019). Isabelline Shrike (Lanius isabellinus). 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 8 December 2019).