Lanius collurio (Red-backed shrike) 

Rooiruglaksman [Afrikaans]; Ihlolo [Xhosa]; Nankuwo (generic term for shrike) [Kwangali]; Tšemeli (also applied to Lesser grey shrike and Common fiscal) [South Sotho]; Civo [Swazi]; Mghubhana lokhulu [Tsonga]; Grauwe klauwier [Dutch]; Pie-grièche écorcheur [French]; Neuntöter [German]; Picanço-de-dorso-ruivo [Portuguese]

Life > Eukaryotes > Opisthokonta > Metazoa (animals) > Bilateria > Deuterostomia > Chordata > Craniata > Vertebrata (vertebrates)  > Gnathostomata (jawed vertebrates) > Teleostomi (teleost fish) > Osteichthyes (bony fish) > Class: Sarcopterygii (lobe-finned fish) > Stegocephalia (terrestrial vertebrates) > Tetrapoda (four-legged vertebrates) > Reptiliomorpha > Amniota > Reptilia (reptiles) > Romeriida > Diapsida > Archosauromorpha > Archosauria > Dinosauria (dinosaurs) > Saurischia > Theropoda (bipedal predatory dinosaurs) > Coelurosauria > Maniraptora > Aves (birds) > Order: Passeriformes > Family: Laniidae

Lanius collurio (Red-backed shrike)  images/2378944289_f51e6c8d09_327w.jpg

Red-backed shrike male. [photo Arno Meintjes ©]

Red-backed shrike female. [photo Johan van Rensburg ©]
Lanius collurio (Red-backed shrike)  Lanius collurio (Red-backed shrike) 
Red-backed shrike male, Kruger National Park, South Africa. [photo Trevor Hardaker ©] Red-backed shrike female, Kruger National Park, South Africa. [photo Trevor Hardaker ©]

Distribution and habitat

Its breeding territory is massive - including most of Europe and western Asia. In the non-breeding season it moves south, with most wintering in southern and east-central Africa but some staying further north in Sudan, Egypt and Ethiopia. In southern Africa it is common in most areas, excluding the west coast of Namibia and South Africa and large areas of the Kalahari. Habitat preferences differ between the sexes: males favour open habitats with fewer and smaller trees while females prefer denser, especially Acacia woodland. It also occurs in grassland with scattered bushes and trees, mopane and broad-leaved woodland. It has gradually been moving into Kalahari scrub, the likely cause being that overgrazing has increased the abundance of thorny bushes.

Distribution of Red-backed shrike in southern Africa, based on statistical smoothing of the records from first SA Bird Atlas Project (© Animal Demography unit, University of Cape Town; smoothing by Birgit Erni and Francesca Little). Colours range from dark blue (most common) through to yellow (least common). See here for the latest distribution from the SABAP2.  

Movements and migrations

It departs from its breeding grounds mainly during August-September, with the males leaving first, later followed by the females and sub-adults. Most of them arrive synchronously in southern Africa in and around November, later departing during the first half of April.


It mainly eats arthropods during the non-breeding season, supplemented occasionally with small birds. It often hunts from a perch, catching prey on the ground or on the wing. The following food items have been recorded in its diet:


Not threatened, in fact well represented in protected areas, with a estimated global population of 10 million.



  • Hockey PAR, Dean WRJ and Ryan PG 2005. Roberts - Birds of southern Africa, VIIth ed. The Trustees of the John Voelcker Bird Book Fund, Cape Town. 



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