Brown Shrike – variation

I continue to be interested in the variation of Brown Shrikes (Lanius cristatus variation) we see on migration.

Of the 4 subspecies:
L. c. cristatus, the nominate race, is the commonest but similar to L. c. confuses and some authors suggest they should be merged. Described as duller rufous-brown cap and mantel (less bright or rich upper parts compared to L. c. superciliosus).
L. c. lucionensis more grey or slaty cap and upper parts. The supercilium is not as prominent but that could be due to it merging with the grey cap.
L. c. superciliosus has a richer rufous mantle and head, and is said to have a broader white supercilium.

Post 1 (above) is of a bird seen on 24th December 2020 in Ipoh. It has much greyer upper parts than the average L. c. cristatus, although the tail is warmer. This is a L. c. lucionensis, possibly an adult female (unless barring remains in males into the second winter).

Post 2 (above) is of a bird seen on 8th October 2020 in Ipoh. It is warmer brown above and a L. c. cristatus (L. c. cristatus/confuses). Note that the breast and throat is much warmer brown than expected (lacks white throat). Possibly an adult female (unless barring remains in males into the second winter).

Post 3 (above) is a composite of a bird seen on 3rd March 2020 in Ipoh. Note the pink proximal lower mandible indicating a juvenile and the moult. This is a first summer bird (first year bird moulting into adult plumage) and from the plumage most likely a L. c. cristatus (L. c. cristatus/confuses).

Post 4 (above) is of a bird seen on 16th February 2018 just outside Ipoh. It is an adult male with some tail and wing moult. Notice the ‘brown’ head and plae breast as expected in L. c. cristatus/confuses (cf bird in Post 1). I have more images and on frontal view the forehead-patch appears large suggesting more of a L. c. confuses.

I do not know enough about breeding plumage changes in these birds.

As always welcome feedback and opinions.


Amar-Singh HSS (Dato’ Dr) – Ipoh, Perak, Malaysia

Habitat: Urban environment

Date: 24th December 2020

Equipment: Nikon D500 SLR with Nikon AF-S Nikkor 500mm f/5.6E PF ED VR, handheld with Rode VideoMic Pro Plus Shotgun Microphone

Follow 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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