Family Shrikes (Laniidae)

Least Concern

Magpie Shrike (Urolestes melanoleucus)


French: Corvinelle noir et blanc German: Elsterwürger Spanish: Alcaudón pío

Lanius melanoleucus


, 1831,

Orange River, South Africa


Race angolensis included in nominate by some authors#R, as (more rarely) is expressus. Four subspecies recognized.

Subspecies and Distribution
  • U. m. aequatorialis Reichenow, 1887 – SW Kenya (E Masai Mara Game Park) and Tanzania (from SE L Victoria E to S slopes of Mt Kilimanjaro, S to SE L Tanganyika and SW to N L Malawi).
  • U. m. angolensis (Meise, 1958) – SW Angola and NE Namibia (NE of Namib Desert).
  • U. m. melanoleucus (Jardine, 1831) – S Zambia E to S Malawi and NW Mozambique, S to Zimbabwe (except SE), Botswana (except large parts of Kalahari) and N South Africa.
  • U. m. expressus (Clancey, 1961) – SE Zimbabwe and S Mozambique S to NE South Africa (Kruger NP and NE KwaZulu-Natal) and E Swaziland.
  • Descriptive notes

    34·5–50 cm, including tail (male 22·5–35 cm, female 21·5–34 cm); male 55–97 g, female 71–96 g (melanoleucus). A... read more


    Noisy, with large variety of sounds reflecting complex social organization. Territorial calls... read more


    Mainly savanna woodlands and open park-like savanna with scattered acacia (Acacia) growth... read more

    Food and feeding

    Feeds mainly on arthropods. Observed prey items ants (Formicidae), termites (Isoptera), grasshoppers (Orthoptera), mantises (Mantodea),... read more


    Season largely coincides with rainy season, in S (nominate race) from Aug to Mar (Oct–Mar in Zambia, mainly Oct–Nov in Zimbabwe... read more


    Mainly resident. In dry season regular movements suspected near borders of range in N Namibia and C... read more

    Status and conservation

    Not globally threatened. Uncommon to locally very common. Disappears or decreases in areas severely modified by man. Indications of decline in some areas, e.g. SW Kenya (only... read more

    Recommended citation

    Yosef, R. & International Shrike Working Group (2020). Magpie Shrike (Urolestes melanoleucus). 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 28 February 2020).