(722) Lanius cristatus phaenicuroides.
The Rufous Shrike.
Lanius phaenicuroides Severtz., J. f. O., 1873, p. 347 (Tashkent); Blanf. & Oates, i, p. 468.
Vernacular names. Lai lahtora (Quetta).
Description. Similar to the Pale Brown Shrike but darker above, with more black on the lores and ear-coverts and with some signs always of a white supercilium often extending on to the forehead; below it has the same rosy tinge as in the Pale-brown Shrike but is much more white; there is always a small patch of white at the base of the primaries.
Colours of soft parts as L. c. isabellinus.
Measurements. Wing 90 to 96 mm.; tail 72 to 82 mm.; tarsus about 25 mm.; culmen about 15 mm.
Nestlings and Young not separable from those of the preceding race.
Distribution. Breeding in Trans - Caspia, West Turkestan, South-West and East Persia, Baluchistan and Afghanistan. In Winter it wanders South and is possibly more often found in India than is recognised at present, I have seen specimens from Sind, Punjab and one from Cachar.
Nidification. General Betham found this Shrike breeding in considerable numbers round about Quetta, between 5,000 and 7,000 feet in May and June. The nests are said to be " massive cup-like structures of the usual Shrike-type built of grass and all sorts of oddments, generally lined with some soft material, such as seed-down or wool and the bird has a penchant for adding scraps of cloth whenever these are available. They are nearly always placed in low thorny bushes and, though easily found, are hard to get at. Sometimes they are placed in road-side trees between six and fourteen feet." The eggs number four to six and are like those of Lanius collurio but smaller. They are bright clean-coloured eggs and the cream and pink types greatly predominate. Sixty eggs average 22.1 x 17.4 mm.: maxima 24.0 x 17.0 and 23.2 x l7.2 mm.; minima 21.0 x l7.0 and 21.3 x 15.9 mm.
Habits. The Rufous Shrike frequents open stony ground where there are scattered thorn-bushes. General Betham says that its habits are quite typical of the genus : it is generally seen perched up on some high thorn-bush, whence it pounces down on passing insects. It feeds principally on grasshoppers and locusts but eats any kind of insect and also small birds, lizards, etc. Its ordinary notes are harsh and unpleasant but its song very sweet and full.