Friday, 31 July 2015

Masked shrike (Lanius nubicus) (Lichtenstein,1823) Παρδαλοκεφαλάς.

The masked shrike (Lanius nubicus) is a bird in the shrike family, Laniidae. It breeds in southeastern Europe and at the eastern end of the Mediterranean, with a separate population in eastern Iraq and western Iran, although there are no geographical subspecies. It is migratory, wintering mainly in northeast Africa. Although it is a short-range migrant, vagrants have occurred widely elsewhere, including northern and western Europe. It is the smallest member of its genus, long-tailed and with a hooked bill. The male has mainly black upperparts, with white on its crown, forehead and supercilium and large white patches on the shoulders and wings. The throat, neck sides and underparts are white, with orange flanks and breast. The female is a duller version of the male, with brownish black upperparts and a grey or buff tone to the shoulders and underparts. The juvenile has grey-brown upperparts with a paler forehead and barring from the head to rump, barred off-white underparts and brown wings part from the white primary patches. The species' calls are short and grating, but the song has melodic warbler-like components.
The masked shrike's preferred habitat is open woodland with bushes and some large trees. It is less conspicuous than its relatives, avoiding very open country and often perching in less exposed locations. The nest is a neat cup built in a tree by both adults, and the clutch is normally 4–6 eggs, which are incubated by the female for 14–16 days until hatching. The chicks are fed by both parents until they fledge 18–20 days later, and remain dependent on the adults for about 3–4 weeks after leaving the nest. The masked shrike eats mainly large insects, occasionally small vertebrates; it sometimes impales its prey on thorns or barbed wire. Populations are decreasing in parts of the European range, but not rapidly enough to raise serious conservation concerns, and the species is therefore classified by theInternational Union for Conservation of Nature as being of Least Concern.
The masked shrike breeds in the Balkans, northeast Greece and some of the Greek islands, Turkey, Cyprus and from Syria south to Israel. It also nests in eastern Iraq and western Iran. The range in the east is uncertain, and may include Afghanistan and northern Saudi Arabia. It is migratory, wintering south of the Sahara, mainly in Chad, Sudan and Ethiopia. Smaller numbers are found west to eastern Mali and Nigeria, and in northern Kenya and southern Saudi Arabia. Most birds leave the breeding areas in late August and September, and return north in February and March.
This species is seen in Egypt, Jordan and Israel much more often in spring than autumn, suggesting that the southern movement may be concentrated further east. Birds will hold small territories on about 0.5 ha (1 acre) on migration, and, unlike other shrikes, may congregate in significant numbers. More than 100 have been seen in one locality in Israel, with five in a single bush. This shrike has occurred as a vagrant in Algeria, Finland, Kenya, Libya, Spain, Sweden, Mauritania and Turkmenistan. At least three individuals have reached Great Britain.
The masked shrike's preferred habitat is open woodland with bushes and some large trees. Unlike its relatives, it avoids very open, lightly vegetated country. Orchards and other cultivated land with suitable old trees or large hedges are also used by this species. It is normally found in more wooded areas than sympatric shrikes. It occurs in lowlands and in hills up to 1,000 m (3,300 ft). In some areas breeding occurs at greater altitudes, up to 2,000 m (6,600 ft). It may occur in gardens and resorts on migration, and in winter again prefers open country with thorny bushes and large trees like acacia or introduced eucalyptus.
The masked shrike is a solitary species except when on migration. It maintains a breeding territory of 2–5 ha (5–12 acres) and is also territorial on the wintering grounds, defending an area of about 3 ha (7 acres). Although unafraid of humans, it is aggressive to its own species and other birds which infringe on its territory. Most other shrikes use high, exposed branches throughout the year, but the masked shrike only uses conspicuous locations at the start of the breeding season, otherwise choosing lower, more sheltered spots. It perches upright, frequently cocking its tail, and has an easy, agile flight  A masked shrike has been recorded as feigning injury when trapped, only to return to normal when the threat receded.From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia
Photos and video Agios Sozomenos by George Konstantinou

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