Saturday, April 3, 2021

Long Tailed Shrike

Name: Long Tailed Shrike
Scientific Name: Lanius schach
Other names: Rufous Backed Shrike
Local/Malay Name: Tirjup Ekor Panjang
Author: Saravanan

Long Tailed Shrikes are birds from the shrike family, medium sized predatory birds, with fairly longer tail, which gave its English name. Its Latin name: “Lanius” means butcher, which related to the feeding behavior of some shrikes, while “schach” which is a name given based on the phonetic representation of the bird’s call. The English name “shrike” derived from Old English writing, “shriek”, which defines its shrill call.

Long Tailed Shrike is a medium sized bird with black forehead and eye-stripe. The crown and mantle are grey, wings are black. Underparts are white with rufous flanks and rump. Its tail is long and narrow. There are 2 subspecies of these shrikes occur in Malaysia:

  • L. s. bentet
  • L. s. nasutus

The commonest subspecies occurs in Malaysia is the “bentet” race. “Bentet” was mentioned as the local Javan name for the Long-Tailed Shrikes. Adult male has black forehead and eye-stripe, grey crown and back. Underpart is white. Scapular, rump and flanks washed in peach. Wings are black, the secondaries fringed with white, along with white patches on the base of the primaries. Its long, graduated and narrow tail is black with pale rufous fringe on the outer feathers. Males and females are alike. Juvenile Long Tailed Shrikes are paler, with some barring on the upperpart, chest and on the flanks. There is a variation of “bentet” race recorded in Sabah, with same plumage except for its black forehead and black-washed crown, merging with its grey nape. The “nasutus” race however is a less -common subspecies of Long Tailed Shrike, which occurs in Sabah. It has been recorded in Kota Marudu, Sabah, in the year 2017/2018. Adult birds are similar to those “bentet” race, but it has a black head and grey back.

Status and Distribution:
Resident in Peninsular Malaysia and Resident/Migrant in East Malaysia.

Confusion Species:
Long Tailed Shrikes are easily distinguishable from the locally available shrikes (Brown and Tiger Shrikes), by its long black tail, and the white patch on its upper wings during its flight.

Geographical Variation:
The black masked “Bentet” race occurs in Peninsular Malaysia, East Malaysia, Sumatra, Java and Lesser Sunda Islands. “Nasutus” race, the black capped subspecies occurs in Philippines and East Malaysia (Sabah). (Refer to Picture 1)

Similar behavior like Brown Shrikes. Skittish. Most solitary in nature, with a very small hunting territory. Adults have been seen in 20m gap (Hulu Langat, Selangor, 2020). Hunts from a vantage point, can be just a meter away from the ground. Seldom seen on high perch. Hunting method is similar to those Brown Shrikes. It lunges on the ground to grab its prey and fly back to its perch. Also seen using its feet to grab the prey while feeding. Prey impaling also been recorded. Similar as Brown Shrikes, its preys on insects, invertebrates and small vertebrates such as small frogs, lizards, even smaller birds. It calls consist of soft and harsh chirpings and quarreling like calls, which may resemble other birds’ calls. It learns to mimic the birds’ or other animals’ call within its habitat.

Picture 1: Distribution of Long Tailed Shrikes

Open country and grasslands with scattered shrubs and bushes, plantations, rice fields and other cultivated lands.

Breeding season for the Long Tailed Shrike in Peninsula Malaysia is between July and September. Nests are built by both male and female shrikes less than 5m high. The nest is loosely built, in cup shape with roots, small twigs, dried long grasses (“Lalang”) and with some man-made materials, i.e., plastic strings. 3 to 6, whitish, brown mottled eggs are laid and incubated for 14 to 16 days, mostly by females. Males may take turn with the females at times. Chicks may fledge in about 20 days. Young birds may feed themselves in 25 days after hatching, and will remain with parent birds for 10 weeks. However, there are cases of fledglings stay with the parent birds longer than the mentioned time.

Conservation Status:
Least Concern. However, the population trend is declining, due to climatic changes and habitat destruction. Long Tailed Shrikes are trapped and traded widely for its demand and popularity as a cage bird. In Indonesia, competitions are held annually among shrike keepers, to declare winner based on the quality of the shrike’s call.  


  1. Craig Robson, 2017, A Field Guide to The Birds of South East Asia, Bloomsbury, London.
  2. Handbook to Birds of the World, Lynx Edicions, Barcelona, Collins, Grafton Street, London

Long Tailed Shrike (Lanius schach bentet), Peninsular Malaysia [Photo Credits: Saravanan Palanisamy]

A variation of Long Tailed Shrike (Lanius schach bentet) from Sabah. [Photo Credits: Adi&Mala, Sabah]

Long Tailed Shrike (Lanius schach bentet), Peninsular Malaysia. [Photo Credits: Terence Ang]

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