Bird Families

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Lanius, typical shrikes, are a genus of passerine birds in the shrike family. Most of the species in the family are housed in this genus. African varieties are known as fiscals... That name comes from the word Afrikaans fiskaal ("Official", especially the executioner) because they hang their prey on pins and needles for storage.

Varieties Most lanius occur in Eurasia and Africa, but the great gray shrike has a circumpolar distribution, and the dumb shrike is confined to North America. There are no members of this genus or family of shrikes in South America or Australia.

Shrike Lanius - Birds of open habitats are usually seen perched vertically at a conspicuous height like a treetop or telegraph pole. They are a sortie for prey taken in flight or on the ground. These species will primarily take on large insects, but will also take on small birds, reptiles and mammals. For large northern species, such as the great gray, most prey will be vertebrates, especially in winter.

Despite their diet, they are not true birds of prey and lack strong predator claws. Although they use their legs to keep smaller insects, large prey points are impaled on a sharp point.such as a barbed wire spike or prongs. Thus ensured they can be ripped open with a hooked bill.

Most shrikes Lanius secluded, except when breeding is very territorial. Northern or temperate species such as great gray and red-backed shrikes are migratory and winter well south of the breeding range.

The sexes of most species are distinguishable, male invariably the brighter bird where there is a difference.

There are some natural groupings within the genus, such as the seven African fiscals, large gray species (ludovicianus, excubitor, meridionalis and sphenocercus) and Eurasian brown-supported varieties (tigrinus, Bucephalus, collurio, isabellinus, cristatus and gubernator). In the latter group in particular, it was difficult to define the boundaries of the species, and in the past several of these shrikes have been mixed as conspecific.

Prehistoric shrike Lanius miocaenus has been described from Early Miocene fossils found in Langy, France, although its placement in this genus is not universally accepted due to its age.

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