29 Jul 2013

Arabian & Mauryan Grey Shrikes – Dhahran Hills


Whilst birding the ‘patch’ I was lucky enough to locate an Arabian (Southern) Grey Shrike in the scrubby desert area. After taking a few poor photos of the bird a dog walker flushed it and it flew into the small bushes at the edge of the spray fields. Whilst looking for the bird I found a second shrike this time a Mauryan (Steppe) Grey Shrike. This allowed for some good comparisons between the two as well as allowing some decent photographs to be taken. Below are photographs of the two species for you to compare yourselves.
Arabian (Southern) Grey Shrike
Arabian (Southern) Grey Shrike
Arabian (Southern) Grey Shrike
I think the bird above is an Arabian (Southern) Grey Shrike Lanius m. aucheri as the bill is deeper based than a typical Mauryan (Steppe) Grey Shrike Lanius m. pallidirostris. The dark lores and black bill are too dark for pallidirostris, which normally show a slightly paler mask even in adults in the spring and the bill is not really jet black like aucheri. The mask of this bird extends over the bill a typical character of aucheri and although it can be seen on occasional palidirostris it is not this obvious. The mantle is slightly darker grey than that shown by the majority of pallidirostris but this can be difficult to judge on lone birds. The wings are sooty black which is a character of aucheri rather than pallidirostris.
The amount of white in the closed secondaries is less on the Arabian Grey Shrike compared to the Mauryan Grey Shrike which is shown in the photographs below.
Mauryan (Steppe) Grey Shrike
Mauryan (Steppe) Grey Shrike
Mauryan (Steppe) Grey Shrike
As I have mentioned before the shrikes in the Eastern Province of Saudi Arabia are very complex and not easily assignable to sub-species as most of the sub-species are clinal in nature. These two birds seem to show what I believe are the main points for the two sub-species.

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