An unknown shrike

on 19th April 2012

“A few days ago, on 3rd April 2012, I came across this interesting, handsome, but unknown shrike along the linking walkway between Chinese Garden MRT Station and the entrance of Chinese Garden.

“This shrike was first discovered hiding inside one of the Ixora shrubs that have been planted by the sides of this long walkway. Hidden from proper view at first, its striking white appearance made me suspect it to be a White-Crested Laughingthrush (Garrulax leucolopus). Only after it was flushed out did I realised that it was a shrike. But, which one? I have seen all three species of shrikes in Singapore, but must admit that I have never come across an adult Tiger Shrike (Lanius tigrinus). So, my initial suspicion was that this could be an adult Tiger Shrike, which is supposedly, rarely encountered in this region.

“However, after searching through the Tiger Shrike images in the Oriental Bird Club Image Database, no matching image was found. After more searches of other shrikes, I still cannot find a similar bird.

“According to Birds of Southeast Asia by Craig Robson, the breeding male Tiger Shrike is described: ‘Grey crown/nape, whitish below, rufescent above with blackish bars/scales, warm brown uppertail, no wing-patch’; and breeding female: ‘Duller; bolder bars/scales above, buffy flanks with blackish scales, whitish loral-patch and thin supercilium’. This shrike would seemed most likely to be an adult breeding male Tiger Shrike – except for its lack of blackish bars/scales and a faint white supercilium above its black eye band.

“So, which species does this shrike belong to? And if it is indeed a breeding male Tiger Shrike, is it an immature due to its lack of blackish bars/scales? Will appreciate if the experts can help with the ID and enlighten us.”

Kwong Wai Chong
7th April 2012

If you like this post please tap on the Like button at the left bottom of page. Any views and opinions expressed in this article are solely those of the authors/contributors, and are not endorsed by the Lee Kong Chian Natural History Museum (LKCNHM, NUS) or its affiliated institutions. Readers are encouraged to use their discretion before making any decisions or judgements based on the information presented.

YC Wee

Dr Wee played a significant role as a green advocate in Singapore through his extensive involvement in various organizations and committees: as Secretary and Chairman for the Malayan Nature Society (Singapore Branch), and with the Nature Society (Singapore) as founding President (1978-1995). He has also served in the Nature Reserve Board (1987-1989), Nature Reserves Committee (1990-1996), National Council on the Environment/Singapore Environment Council (1992-1996), Work-Group on Nature Conservation (1992) and Inter-Varsity Council on the Environment (1995-1997). He is Patron of the Singapore Gardening Society and was appointed Honorary Museum Associate of the Lee Kong Chian Natural History Museum (LKCNHM) in 2012. In 2005, Dr Wee started the Bird Ecology Study Group. With more than 6,000 entries, the website has become a valuable resource consulted by students, birdwatchers and researchers locally and internationally. The views and opinions expressed in this article are his own, and do not represent those of LKCNHM, the National University of Singapore or its affiliated institutions.

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5 Responses

  1. I would hazard a guess that the bird is either a recently-moulted long-tailed shrike that has not yet grown a full-length tail, or it is a bay-backed shrike. There is considerable variation in colour between various regional populations of the long-tailed shrike. Though the form more commonly seen has a darker head than the bird you photographed, there is a variant with a light crown that could be mistaken for a laughing thrush.

    With the AVA ban on import of wild birds from countries that report bird flu, the pet trade is sourcing supplies from other areas. Shamas and hwamei are now in very short supply.

    Shrikes, which are known to be hardy, and some of which are good singers, are being imported.

    Since shrikes also bite viciously, it would not be at all surprising if an inexperienced bird keeper, more used to handling the gentler thrushes, lost his grip on a captive bird.

  2. Looking more closely at the picture, the following thoughts come to mind.

    Both the Bay-backed Shrike (Lanius vittatus) and Long-tailed Shrike (Lanius schach) can be excluded since this bird shows no white patch on the wing. The most likely candidate seems to be the Philippine Shrike (Lanius cristatus lucionensis), a sub-form of the Brown Shrike (Lanius cristatus).

    This bird breeds in eastern China, Korea and southern Japan, wintering in south-east China, Taiwan, Philippines, north Borneo, Thailand, Myanmar, and also in parts of Malaya, the Andaman Islands and Sri Langka.

    1. Just reading through more about the confusing problem with subspecies of the Brown Shrike (Lanius cristatus), this appears to be what we should be expecting on a pure typical “lucionensis” adult male, but some of the “lucionensis” I saw in the field did not often show such a clear grey cap, and there are many who always suspect another subspecies “confusus” is merely an intergrade of the “lucionensis” and “cristatus”. A probably interesting study is to check the actual distribution and population size of the Brown Shrikes in the Malay Peninsular, which could be interesting as we have up to 3-4 subspecies of Brown Shrikes visiting this region (“confusus” subspecific status may be debatable).

      In northern Peninsular Malaysia, the nominated “cristatus” seemed to be a common form we meet in urban gardens, “lucionensis” or its intergrade common in open country and becoming commoner in urban gardens southward, I had only seen the “superciliosus” in KL once. I am still hoping to read more about the “lucionensis/confusus” on how can we draw a boundary between these two as well as how to differentiate “cristatus/confusus” as well.

  3. Possibly a red backed shrike . it probably got lost on its migration route . I saw a picture of a red backed shrike and it looks the same except that the red backed shrike has a greyish tail . not a brown one .

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