Family Shrikes (Laniidae)

Least Concern

Woodchat Shrike (Lanius senator)


French: Pie-grièche à tête rousse German: Rotkopfwürger Spanish: Alcaudón común

Lanius Senator


, 1758,

“Indiis”; error = Rhine valley, Germany


Geographical variation partly clinal. Race badius rather distinctive, having usually paler chestnut crown (ns); typically whiter, less rufous-tinged underparts (ns); no white wing-flash (3); slightly narrower black frons (1); but little indication of any difference in voice#R, although further research needed. Race rutilans perhaps better merged with nominate#R. Proposed race hensii (Sicily) included in nominate. Four subspecies generally recognized.

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Subspecies and Distribution
  • L. s. senator Linnaeus, 1758 – Woodchat Shrike – patchily from N Spain and C & S France (mainly Languedoc–Roussillon and Côte d’Azur) E to Sicily, Greece (including Corfu, Crete and most bigger islands in Aegean Sea), coastal Balkans E to E Romania, S Bulgaria and W Turkey, also locally and irregularly Switzerland, SW Germany (upper Rhine Valley, foothills of Swabian Mts, Saarland), Poland, and Slovakia; non-breeding W & C Africa.
  • L. s. rutilans Temminck, 1839 – Iberian Peninsula (except N Spain), and NW Africa from W Morocco E to NW & NE Libya, S to S slopes of Anti-Atlas and Middle and High Atlas; non-breeding W Africa.
  • L. s. niloticus (Bonaparte, 1853) – Cyprus, S & E Turkey and Levant E to Transcaucasia, N Iraq (Kurdistan), Kuwait#R and Iran (Zagros Mts; possibly also SE to Baluchistan and in Elburz Mts); non-breeding E Africa and (rare) SW Arabia.
  • L. s. badius Hartlaub, 1854 – Balearic Shrike – islands in W Mediterranean (Balearics, Capraia, Corsica, Sardinia); non-breeding W Africa.
  • Descriptive notes

    18–19 cm; 21–59 g. A medium-sized, rather bulky-looking shrike with distinctive plumage pattern. Male nominate race has black forehead and facial mask to ear-... read more


    Contact calls described as “kwikwik” or “pitquür”, and alarm as... read more


    Generally in semi-open areas with bushes and well-spaced trees, such as open woodland, old orchards... read more

    Food and feeding

    Almost exclusively insectivorous, with preference mostly for larger insects such as beetles (of families Carabidae and Scarabaeidae),... read more


    Laying early May to end Jun in C Europe, earlier, from Apr, in N Africa and from Mar in Israel; two broods usual in S (N Africa and Israel... read more


    Migratory, wintering in vast belt of sub-Saharan Africa N of equator, and in small numbers in S... read more

    Status and conservation

    Not globally threatened. Locally common; rare in N parts of range. Majority of European population inhabits Mediterranean region, where Iberian Peninsula may hold over 600,... read more

    Recommended citation

    Yosef, R. & International Shrike Working Group (2019). Woodchat Shrike (Lanius senator). 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 10 December 2019).