Iberian Grey Shrike (Lanius meridionalis) Picanço-real

Recently split from the Great Grey Shrike, the Iberian Grey Shrike is a resident "Butcher Bird" for the majority of Portugal, absent only from the north west of the country.

Butcher Birds are so called for their habit of keeping a "larder" of their prey stuck on spikes. These spikes used to take the form of hawthorn trees etc, but these have now largely been replaced by the ubiquitous barbed-wire, and it is not uncommon to find a grisly row of beetles, crickets, lizards and skinks etc hanging from a roadside fence. This is nowadays seen more as a territorial attraction for the female rather than as a larder for later consumption.

Their numbers, along with most Shrikes nowadays, have declined recently, though they still show a distinct presence in the southern Alentejo.

Sexes are alike, with a thin white line above the hook-tipped beak, prominent white wing bars and a very faint pinkish hue on the breast and belly.

The bird is easily encountered and recognised with its markedly long tail as it sits in the open scanning the ground below for prey. When leaving a perch it habitually jumps off and falls with wings folded before a rapid burst of wing-beats propels it quickly just above the ground before a swoop up and onto its next perch.



Birding in Portugal

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