338. GREAT GREY SHRIKE.
Lanius excubitor, Linn. Syst. Nat. i. p. 135 (1766) ; Naum, ii, p. 7, Taf. 49 ; Hewitson, i. p. 69, pl. xx. fig. 1 ; Gould, B. of Gt. ; Brit. ii. pl. 13 ; Newton, i. p. 199 ; Dresser, iii. p. 375, pl. 145 ; Gadow, Cat. B. Br. Mus. viii. p. 237 ; Saunders, p. 147 ; Lilford, ii. p. 70. pl. 32.
Pie-grieche grise, French ; Averla maggiore, Ital. ; Grauer Wurger, German ; Klaauwier, Dutch ; Graa, Torniskade, Dan., Varsler, Norweg. ; Storre Tornskata, Swed. ; Isompi-Lepinkainen, Finn. ; Skirri, Mettahakki, Lapp. ; Europaiski Sorokoput, Russ.
Male ad. Upper parts light blue-grey ; a narrow line on the forehead and over the eye white ; lores and a large patch below the eye, including the ear coverts deep black ; scapulars broadly and secondaries narrowly tipped with white ; wings black with a double or occasionally a single white band ; lesser coverts blue-grey ; tail black the outer feathers almost altogether, and the others, the two centre excepted, broadly terminated with white ; chin, throat, and under parts white , bill and legs blackish ; iris brown. Culmen 0.7, wing 4.4, tail 4.0, tarsus 1.0 inch. The female has the under parts greyish with traces of indistinct transverse vermicu- lations, and the young are duller, the black portions are tinged with brown, the under parts ore dirty greyish white, and the bill and legs brown.
Hab. Europe generally, ranging into western Asia.
Bold and fearless, it does not seek concealment, but may usually be seen perched on a bare bough or the top of a tree or bush, and is to be met with both in the hills and plains, in orchards, plantations, or fields where trees are scattered about. It feeds on large insects, lizards, frogs, mice, and small birds, and has a habit of fixing its prey, when secured, on a thorn or in a small tree-fork. Its call-note resembles the syllable truu, and its cry shek, shek. It is often made use of by falconers when trapping hawks, to give notice of the approach of a bird of prey. It breeds as far north as Lapland, and sometimes two broods are raised in the year. Its nest, which is placed in a large bush or in a tree, often in a fruit tree, is constructed of twigs, bents, and moss, lined with wool, feathers, or hair, and is large and bulky. The eggs, 4 to 6, and sometimes even 7 in number, are dull white, with purplish grey underlying shell-markings, and dull brown surface-spots and blotches, and in size average about 1.07 by 0.77.
As regards the supposed occurrence of L. major Pall, in Europe, I fully agree with Prof. Collett (Ibis, 1886, pp. 30—40) that the specimens obtained were only varieties of L. excubitor.
338. Lanius excubitor
338. GREAT GREY SHRIKE.