13 Feb 2020

Great (Arabian) Grey Shrike - Ushaiqer

Whilst birding the Ushaiqer area I found a Great Grey Shrike Lanius excubitor in some bushes in a valley near the edge of the escarpment. The Grey shrikes in Saudi Arabia are very confusing and there is often healthy debate between the birders of the region over what species, and subspecies, individual birds are. Great Grey Shrike subspecies that occur in Saudi Arabia, aucheri (mainly eastern areas) and elegans (extreme west), have been reported from areas where they occur in close proximity, such as south-west Israel, eastern Egypt and north-east Sudan indicating the possibility of gene flow between them. These hybrids are likely in western Saudi Arabia as well as the range overlaps here. Mauryan Grey Shrike (Steppe Grey Shrike) pallidirostris occurs regularly in the region as a fairly common migrant and winter visitor, with peak migration in mid-March and September to October. This complicates matters with Great Grey Shrikes further as interbreeding occurs freely between pallidirostris and the locally breeding Great Grey Shrike subspecies aucheri with an intermediate population occurring in north-east Iran. These birds could quite easily occur in the Eastern Province of Saudi Arabia as well.
Great (Arabian) Grey Shrike

Great (Arabian) Grey Shrike

Great (Arabian) Grey Shrike

Great (Arabian) Grey Shrike

Great (Arabian) Grey Shrike

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