20 Feb 2015

Long-tailed Shrike a first for Saudi Arabia – Dhahran golf course

A Long-tailed Shrike was glimpsed briefly on the golf course at Dhahran on 14 February but the view was so brief it was put down as a Daurian Shrike. On 17 February Harald Ris re-found the bird in the same place and confirmed its identification as a Long-tailed Shrike. The grey mantle with no visible rufous and the lack of white-wing patch on my views of the bird from photos on my I-phone led me to wonder if the bird may be a Grey-backed Shrike but on seeing it myself on the 18 February it soon became clear it was a Long-tailed Shrike a new species for the Saudi Arabian list. The subspecies that have occurred in other parts of Arabia are L. s. erythronotus that breeds in southeast Kazakhstan, southern Uzbekistan, Kyrgyzstan, southern Turkmenistan, Tajikistan, Afghanistan and Pakistan eastwards to north and north-central India and probably also northeast Iran. This is the most likely subspecies to occur due to its location to the Eastern Province of Saudi Arabia but the lack of any real rufous on the mantle makes the bird we saw look more like L. s. caniceps that occurs in north-central & peninsular India and N Sri Lanka. To confuse things further the mainland subspecies tend to intergrade with each other. The fact that erythronotus is migratory, wintering from October to March in the Indian plains and caniceps appears to make only local seasonal movements makes it almost certain our bird is in fact L. s. erythronotus. Long-tailed Shrike is a medium-sized shrike with a very long, graduated tail. They have a black facial mask extending as a broad band through the lores and eye to lower nape with the crown to mantle dark grey and the back and rump rufous. They also have the upperwing blackish, tertials edged pale buffish-white and a conspicuous, although small, white patch at base of primaries. The tail is black, tipped white with the outer tail fetahers edged pale buff. The throat is white and the underparts whitish, strongly tinged with rufous on the breast side and flanks. Races differ mainly in size (nominate largest), tail length, and colour of head and upperparts with erythronotus similar to nominate but distinctly smaller, somewhat duller, and with narrower black band on forehead with caniceps paler, with less rufous on upperparts. They favour open country with scrub, light woodland and bushes, mainly in cultivated areas and feed on a wide variety of insects such as grasshoppers and beetles as well as small mammals, lizards and frogs that they hunt from a prominent perch. The bird in Dhahran was always on the move and was quite timid not allowing close approach. 

Long-tailed Shrike

Long-tailed Shrike

Long-tailed Shrike

Long-tailed Shrike

Long-tailed Shrike

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