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Thread: Sibiricus Grey Shrike?

  1. #1
    Moderator Brian S's Avatar
    Join Date
    Oct 2007
    Suffolk, UK

    Default Sibiricus Grey Shrike?

    This grey shrike has been in Finland since the end of October, and is very interesting. Graham Walbridge and I have been discussing it and we both think it is likely to be sibiricus/borealis!? ‘The bird is clearly a 1st-winter and not of one of the western forms. Interesting that its facial/head pattern is very similar to palllidirostris, which the bird clearly isn`t. The brown-toned uppers and scaly underparts look really good for sibiricus and it does look like a brute of a bird, particularly the bill, but I cannot recall the facial pattern of 1st-winters’.

    Any comments? Andrea?

    Brian S

  2. #2
    Join Date
    Dec 2007


    Lars Svensson has commented that some first winter nominate females can look pretty similar, and would prefer DNA-based evidence for certain identification (we have not been able to catch the bird, but a pellet has been collected). However, the general opinion seems to be that the bird differs rather substantially from normal nominate individuals, and that sibiricus is indeed a plausible candidate. There are not many pictures of sibiricus available on the net, but here are two photos of 1cy autumn birds, both taken near Krasnoyarsk:

    Regarding the facial pattern, pale lores and a greyish, not blackish, mask behind the eye seem to be typical of first winter sibiricus. According to the literature sibiricus is practically indistinguishable from the North American ssp borealis (ssp invictus has recently been merged with borealis), and according to a recent mtDNA-based study borealis is indeed closely related with sibiricus (these two subspecies form a potential split, whereas pallidirostris might even be lumped with nominate excubitor). Here are some examples of borealis for comparison:

    Note that the postjuvenile moult of borealis is less extensive than on excubitor, and that a pale mask is retained throughout the first winter.

    Another interesting Grey Shrike has been photographed in Finland previously this autumn:

    It was also very sibiricus-like (I have personally difficult to believe that it was just an odd nominate excubitor), but note that the bases of the outer secondaries are rather broadly white (according to the literature, sibiricus should have much less white on the secondaries), and that the outermost tail feathers seem to be completely white (according to Svensson, on a sibiricus the white colouration should be mainly limited to the three outermost tail feathers, and at least one fourth of the base of the inner vane of the outermost tail feather should be black). I would believe that the variation of sibiricus is poorly known, as well as possible intergradation with excubitor and homeyeri.

  3. #3
    Senior Member
    Join Date
    Dec 2007


    Surely a most interesting bird... I'm out of home birding will be back home in few days... at first glance it seems a good candidate for sibiricus, also for the moult stage and plumage juv. looking...however, I remind borealis to have lesser white on tertials and mostly a smaller white patch on closed wing visible compared to a sibiricus.... I'll check my photos of some hundreds skins I photographed in museums in last years... and post some with comments.
    incidentally, while checking for skins of shrikes and a review of Italian records I found in Roma Museum a sibiricus and a leucopterus taken in '800 in Italy, the latter being possibly the sole WP record? I will sought DNA analisis of those birds by Lars and may be Per Alstrom or Urban Olsson.... hope they may confirm what morphology and plumage seems to indicate...
    Final word: I always underline as variability its horribly huge in nature, among ALL bird species, making hard many ID, in some birds that are big these is mostyl visible as in great Larus sp. or Aquila or Falcons such Sakers and Peregrines...but in Lanius its as huge as in Larus and sometimes we may face with birds not possible to ID without DNA indeed....


    Andrea C

    at soon :-)
    Last edited by macrourus; September 2nd, 2011 at 12:57 PM.

  4. #4
    Senior Member
    Join Date
    Dec 2007


    Some photos to study on....

    Usually sibiricus has more extensive white patch at primary base than in borealis...while secondary are fully dusky grey in both(even more than excubitor and more grey than blakish as in 1y excubitor).... borealis its in general dullier and duskier, with rump more often uniform with upperparts and therefore dusky, while its usually paler, off whitish in sibiricus... tail pattern both taxa quite matter if more or less white as shown in extreme found ! Compaered to 1w excubitor, juv. characters more extensive by winter, mostly on lores, primary base white extenzion, and general ochreous -sandy tinge to upperparts ....

    All characters need to be however studied more in details next visit to TRINg or in any musuem....

    all the best


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    Last edited by macrourus; September 2nd, 2011 at 12:57 PM.

  5. #5
    Junior Member
    Join Date
    Oct 2010
    Segerstads fyr ("Victory City Lighthouse), island of Öland, SE Sweden

    Default A new bird

    Any progress, guys?

    Here's another bird, perhaps still about, in Sweden. A comment would be appreciated.
    Search for "Great Grey Shrike"
    Click on "Varfågel", the folder (not yet as sibiricus).
    Select "Region": "Södermanland"
    Choose "Present Records", "Pictue Gallery"
    There you have a few, the bird in fact is barred and has some comments.
    I'm sorry I don't find a direct link.

    All the best from Sweden, "full" of Red-flanked Bluetails.


  6. #6
    Senior Member JanJ's Avatar
    Join Date
    Jan 2008


    A direct link to the bird mentioned by Christian:

    The combination of heavy reddish-brown underparts barring, pale rump area, heavy dark mask, especially well marked behind the eye and narrow supercilium. Perhaps a late moulting excubitor are some of the comments there.


  7. #7
    Join Date
    Oct 2008


    What do you thinks about this birds ?

    Probably just a scaled brownish excubitor, but who knows ?... close to other birds suspected to be sibiricus.

    Thanks in advance

    Marc G.

    PS : several other pictures...

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