Great Grey Shrike - Lanius excubitor


The Great Grey Shrike is the largest of the European shrikes. They are very territorial so you're unlikely to see more than one at once. Shrikes are often 'mobbed' by other birds which recognise them as dangerous predators. Keep an eye out for a medium-sized, long-tailed bird sitting at the top of a tree. The black mask and grey plumage are distinctive.

Identification difficulty

Great Grey Shrikes visit open areas, including heathland, farmland, scrub, clear-felled areas of forestry and coastal dunes. They need to have perches from which to hunt, so they often sit on fence posts and high up in trees.

When to see it

They arrive, on the east coast at first, in autumn and many stay throughout winter and into spring (sometimes as late as April or May), when they migrate back to their breeding grounds in Scandinavia.

Life History

Feed on beetles and other insects, small mammals and birds. Food is often stored in a 'larder' by impaling it on a thorn!

UK Status

Great grey shrikes are regular but scarce visitors to the UK.

VC55 Status

Quite rare in Leicestershire and Rutland.

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Leicestershire & Rutland Map


Yellow squares = NBN records (all known data)
Coloured circles = NatureSpot records: 2020+ | 2015-2019 | pre-2015

UK Map