722. Lanius cristatus phcenicuroides

(722) Lanius aristatus phoenieuroides Severtz.
Lanius aristatus phoenieuroides, Fauna B. I., Birds, 2nd ed. vol. ii, p. 303.
The Rufous Shrike breeds in Trans-Caspia, West Turkestan, South-West and East Persia, Afghanistan and Baluchistan. In Quetta it is extremely common and both Betham and Williams obtained very fine series of its eggs.
The eggs recorded in Hume’s ‘Nests and Eggs’ as being those of Lanius cristatus are certainly not those of this species at all, probably, in Tickell’s record, not even of this family. On the other hand, records of isabellinus breeding in Quetta do, we now know, refer to the present race.
Betham, who obtained birds off the nest and sent them to me for identification, was the first to record anything under its proper name about this Shrike nesting in Quetta. He writes (Journ. Bomb. Nat. Hist. Soc. vol. xvii, p. 831, 1907) :—“This bird is abundant on the hills near Quetta, and comes down very nearly to the plains surrounding it. It frequents the low thorn bushes, common on the hills. I took my first nests on the 13th May and my last on the 27th June, but these latter were at a much higher altitude. The nest is the usual massive cup-like structure common to all Shrikes, bits of rag being utilized when obtainable. The site is usually the centre of a low thorny bush. A few nests were found on road¬side trees ; these were placed where branches unite with the main stem, and were from 10 to 14 feet from the ground. Were I re-maining another season, I am sure I could obtain as many clutches as I liked.”
In letters to me Betham adds that the nest is made of twigs, roots and grass, often much mixed with wool and hair, the various items being well bound together. The lining is of grass or hair, and with these wool is also often intermixed. The nest is some¬times placed quite low down in scrubby thorny bushes, not more than a couple of feet from the ground, and it is often a business to get them out without damaging one’s hands with the thorns. They are well concealed but, as the birds always give away the sites of their nests, they are very easy to find. They are common down to 5,000 feet and breed from that altitude to the tops of the adjoining hills between 9,000-10,000 feet, keeping to open ground.
Williams, who also found many nests at Quetta, says (op. cit. vol. xxxiii, p. 691, 1929):—“This bird is common in certain localities in the hills, but not in the Quetta Valley itself. It frequents open hill-sides scantily covered with bushes, and its presence is always known by its noisy call. The nest is a well-built one, a framework of sticks and twigs, the walls being built of grass, fibre, and fine flexible twigs well lined with soft grass. It is placed in thorny bushes at no great height from the ground.”
The breeding season is from the beginning of May up to the end of June only, so, apparently, this bird is not double brooded, though it will, of course, nest and lay again if the first set of eggs comes to grief.
In the Tekkes Valley, in the Tianschan, Ludlow found them breeding in great numbers during the early part of June between 4,500 and 5,000 feet.
The eggs vary in number from four to six, whilst in coloration they show well all the varieties already described under the names of other Shrikes.
The most common type has the ground-colour ranging from the palest cream to a warm salmon-pink, marked with blotches of chestnut-red or light red and with secondary marks of pale lavender and lilac, never very conspicuous. In most eggs there is a very definite zone of spots at the larger end, the spots inside this ring being numerous and outside sparse ; in some eggs the spots are larger, more scattered over the surface, while the ring is indefinite or lacking. In the other type of egg the ground varies from a pale yellow stone, olive stone, or sea-green to a slightly darker grey- green or brownish-green. The markings are of grey-brown, olive- brown or brown, with others underlying them of grey, both primary and secondary markings being distributed as in the red type.
Intermediate eggs between the two types occur but are exceptional, and about three out of five clutches are of the red type.
In shape the eggs are rather long ovals but they vary greatly, and some are as broad in proportion as the eggs of the Black-headed Shrikes.
One hundred eggs average 22.4 x 16.8 mm. : maxima 24.1 x 17.2 and 23.4 x 18.0 mm. ; minima 21.0 x 16.7 and 21.3 x 15.9 mm.

The Nidification Of Birds Of The Indian Empire
Baker, Edward Charles Stuart. The nidification of birds of the Indian Empire. Vol. 2. 1933.
Title in Book: 
722. Lanius cristatus phcenicuroides
Spp Author: 
Book Author: 
Edward Charles Stuart Baker
Page No: 
Common name: 
Rufous Shrike
Red-tailed Shrike
Lanius phoenicuroides
Vol. 2

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