Family Shrikes (Laniidae)

Least Concern

Northern Grey Shrike (Lanius borealis)


French: Pie-grièche boréale German: Taigaraubwürger Spanish: Alcaudón boreal
Other common names: Northern Shrike

Lanius borealis


, 1808,

North America = New York


Traditionally included in L. excubitor, but recent study#R supports treatment as a separate species. Characterized by narrow dark scaling below in adult plumage on a shade darker underparts (3); upperparts tinged ochre (1); and parapatry (or even narrow sympatry) in one area of Mongolia between race mollis and “Steppe Grey Shrike” L. e. pallidirostris#R (3); but anomalous race bianchii, genetically the most differentiated, fails to conform to this plumage pattern, resembling instead L. e. excubitor. In Canada, invictus apparently interbreeds with borealis in NE Manitoba and N Ontario and is sometimes synonymized with it; sibiricus and mollis intergrade in NW Mongolia; funereus sometimes lumped into mollis. Six subspecies provisionally recognized.

What do (1) and (2) mean? Learn more about the scoring system.
Subspecies and Distribution
  • L. b. invictus Grinnell, 1900 – Alaska (except N) and NW & NC Canada (Yukon and Northwest Territories, and extreme N British Columbia E to N Ontario); non-breeding S Canada and most of W & C USA.
  • L. b. borealis Vieillot, 1808 – NE Canada (N Ontario and N & C Quebec E to Labrador); non-breeding SE Canada and C & E USA.
  • L. b. mollis Eversmann, 1853 – CS Russia (Altai and Sayan Mts) and NW Mongolia; non-breeding also N China.
  • L. b. funereus Menzbier, 1894 – S & E Tien Shan (Kyrgyzstan–NW China); perhaps Dzhungarian Alatau Mts and Ketmen Mts (E Kazakhstan)#R.
  • L. b. sibiricus Bogdanov, 1881 – C & E Siberia E to Kolyma Basin, Anadyrland and Chukotskiy Peninsula, S to L Baikal, N Mongolia and SE Russia (N Amurland), possibly also N Kurils (Paramushir I); non-breeding SC Siberia, Mongolia, NE China (S perhaps to N Hebei) and Ussuriland.
  • L. b. bianchii E. J. O. Hartert, 1907 – Sakhalin and S Kuril Is; non-breeding N Japan (Hokkaido, rarely farther S).
  • Descriptive notes

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    Recommended citation

    del Hoyo, J. & Collar, N. (2017). Northern Grey Shrike (Lanius borealis). 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 14 December 2017).