(714) Lanius schach erythronotus.
The Rufous-backed Shrike.
Collurio erythronotus Vigors, P. Z. S., 1831, p. 42 (Himalayas, Lucknow). Lanius erythronotus. Blanf. & Oates, i, p. 464.
Vernacular names. Maltiya latora, Kagala latora (Hind.); Yerra lilinchi (Tel.).
Description. Forehead, lores and a broad band through the eyes and ear-coverts black; crown, nape, neck, back and a few lesser wing-coverts clear light grey merging into rufous on the lower hack, rump, upper tail-coverts and scapulars; central two or three pairs of tail-feathers black tipped with rufous, outermost pair pale rufous-brown with broad rufous tips, remaining pairs intermediate in colour; wing-coverts black, the greater very narrowly edged with rufous; quills black; the outer primaries narrowly edged with rufous and all but the first three with a broad white patch at the base; inner secondaries broadly .edged with rufous; below white, the flanks, vent and under tail-coverts rufous; the lower breast and sides of the abdomen are generally more or less washed with rufous.
Colours of soft parts. Iris dark brown; bill black; young birds and males in "Winter have the base of the bill horny-brown; legs and feet brownish black.
Measurements. Total length about 250 to 260 mm.; wing 91 to 97 mm.; tail 100 to 113 mm.; tarsus 28 to 30 mm.; culmen about 18 to 19 mm.
Young. More rufescent throughout than the adults; the whole of the upper parts barred with black or dark brown; the under-parts fulvous, the breast and flanks with narrow wavy bars of black; the wing-feathers are very boldly edged with rufous and the black line through the eye is only faintly indicated.
Nestling like the young bird but with no black eye-line and a faint whitish supercilium.
The extent of rufous on the back varies considerably, and in specimens from the extreme North of India the whole of the back to the nape is sometimes strongly suffused with this colour. Birds from Central India, South Bombay and the Deccan are intermediate between this and the next race but, on the whole, nearer the Northern form.
Distribution. From the extreme North of India as far South, about, as Surat on the West and thence in almost a semicircular line to the mouths of the Godavary River on the East. The birds in the Southern parts of the Central Provinces are of the next race, but those from the Northern Central Province are quite typical of this one, those in between being, as we should expect, intermediate in their characteristics. It occurs commonly throughout Sind in the West and as far East as Eastern Bengal, where, however, it is rare. It ascends the Himalayas up to at least 8,000 feet.
Nidification. The Rufous-backed Shrike breeds and is resident throughout the area recorded above from the Plains up to about 8,000 feet, its nest having been taken at this elevation near Gulmerg. The nest is a deep cup generally very compactly put together, but sometimes, for a Shrike's nest, it is very loose and untidy. The materials used are twigs, roots, grass, scraps of wool and all sorts of oddments, the lining being of grass alone and it is placed in a high bush or in a tree between four feet and twenty feet from the ground. The eggs are like those of Lanius e. lahtora, but 9 out of 10 have a clearer brighter ground-colour, whilst they are normally rather smaller. Eggs with a cream or pink ground, though not as rare as are red eggs of L. e. lahtora, are not common. Two hundred eggs average 23.7 X 18.1 mm.: maxima 27.4 x 18.0 and 25.0 x 19.5 mm.; minima 21.3 X 18.0 and 24.0 x 17.0 mm.
The principal breeding months are April, May and June, but nests and eggs may be found any time from March to September, and many birds must rear two or even three broods.
Habits. The Rufous-backed Shrike is not migratory in the true sense of the word, though it moves locally under stress of weather and food-conditions and, to some extent, vertically with the seasons. In its habits it is much like the Indian Grey Shrike but it is a much bolder bird, often having been known to attack small birds in cages as well as small birds and reptiles in a state of nature. Like all Shrikes, however, its principal food consists of large insects, such as beetles, locusts, grasshoppers, etc. It is said to have a harsh voice with no song worth the name but to be a good mimic.