Nesting behaviour of the Long-tailed Shrike

posted in: Nesting | 3

Connie Khoo Siew Yoong started monitoring the nesting of the Long-tailed Shrike (Lanius schach) in mid-2007 in a suburban area in Ipoh, Perak, Malaysia (above). This area of overgrown grasses with scattered trees attracted other birds as well – Lesser Coucal (Centropus bengalensis), White-breasted Waterhen (Amaurornis phoenicurus), etc. The area was regularly cleared, but once the vegetation regenerated, these birds always returned.

Around June-July, the shrikes would be building their nests in the 5m tall mango (Mangifera indica) and other trees. In many cases the nests were abandoned half way through, with the shrikes building another one nearby. In July 2009 the nesting pair had to abandon their nest again when the area was bulldozed. However, in June 2010 Connie succeeded in following the nesting right up to fledging.

The nest was cup-shaped, bulky and loosely constructed at less than 5 m up the tree. Bamboo leaves, dried long grass, twigs, bits of plastic string and bag and other man-made materials were used. On 2nd July the female was seen incubating the eggs (above). At shift change the male flew in quietly just after the female flew out. The eggs probably hatched on 16th July, after 14 days of incubation. This compares well with the 13-16 days reported by Harris & Franklin (2000).

On 19th July an adult brought a caterpillar to feed the chicks. Occasionally the female used her wings to fan the nest or cover it to protect the chicks from the sun. Both adults were seen removing faeces or swallowed them while still in the nest. Three chicks were seen in the nest on 29th July. The youngest chick’s eyes were slightly opened and the other two were covered with pin feathers.

All three chicks fledged on 8th August, about 23 days after hatching, although Harris & Franklin (2000) reported a 15-17day period. They remained in the tree although two of the fledglings left the nesting tree the next day and landed in a clump of bamboo. They occasionally flew back to the tree. All subsequently returned to the nest to roost. Slowly the fledglings explored further afield, first to the bamboo clump nearby (above), then to the open grassland.

In the grassland they were harassed by a pair of Pied Triller (Lalage nigra), a Black-naped Oriole (Oriolus chinensis), a Cinnamon Bittern (Ixobrychus cinnamomeus) and a Lesser Coucal (Centropus bengalensis). The adults came to their rescue without much success. These birds were probably after the dead Scaly-breasted Munia that the shrikes hung on a tiny branch in the bamboo patch.

[Long-tailed Shrikes at 3 (left) and 11 days after fledging (right)]

About 13 days after fledging, they were hunting for small insects by themselves, although they were still dependent on the adults for food for another 54 days. Harris & Franklin (2000) reported that juveniles feed themselves after 25 days old and stay with parents for at least ten weeks.

“By this time their features were changing rapidly,” recounted Connie. “Their tails were almost of adult length, the head and back still scaly and wings darker.” And they were moving far afield. Also, they stopped returning to the nesting tree to roost – at least until 21st September or 44 days after fledging.

[Long-tailed Shrikes at 32 (left) and 43 days after fledging (right)]

One juvenile was still with the adults at 82 days after fledging. By then the juveniles looked quite similar to the adult, except that its frontal band still had a bit of white patches in it. The appearance of the frontal band can be used to sex these shrikes. In the female, the band is narrower, darker and neater while that of a male is broader, lighter and untidy.

[Juvenile Long-tailed Shrike at 67 days after fledging}

The last time Connie saw all three fledglings together was on 22nd October, 75 days after fledging. One juvenile was still with the adults a week later. By then the juvenile looked just like the adults. Except its frontal band had white patches.

Harris, T. & Franklin, K. 2010. Shrikes & Bush-Shrikes – Including Wood-shrikes, Helmet-shrikes, Shrike Flycatchers, Philentomas, Batises and Wattle-eyes. Helm Identification Guide. Christopher Helm, London.
2. Khoo, S. Y., 2011. Observations on the hunting and feeding behaviour of breeding Long-tailed Shrikes Lanius schach. BirdingAsia 16: 71-74.

Note: This post has been compiled from Khoo (2011) in consultation with her field notes. The author thanks Lim Kim Chye for editing the original draft of the paper.

3 Responses

  1. Daisy O'Neill

    You have many interesting observations to share. Am I pleased you’ve finally decided to take a stand and contribute to BESG.
    Our recent meeting must have been encouraging and look forward to read more.



  2. Philip Round

    I ask the author or observer. Is there any evidence that nests of Lanius schach are ever parasitized by Asian Koel (Eudynamys scolopaceus) in Malaysia?

    • Amar-Singh HSS

      Dear Philip

      I am not the author of that observation but have been watching Long-tailed Shrikes (Lanius schach) for >4 decades in the same region and seen a number of nesting events & juveniles.
      I have never seen them parasitized by the Asian Koel (Eudynamys scolopaceus).
      The commonest (and only) brood hosts I have seen for Koels in my region are the Common Mynas (Acridotheres tristis tristis). I have seen Jungle Mynas (Acridotheres fuscus torquatus) also feeding juvenile Koels.
      In my immediate region (Ipoh) we do not have House Crows (Corvus splendens). We have some Large-billed Crows (Corvus macrorhynchos) but in small numbers.


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