(716) Lanius tephronotus.
The Grey-backed Shrike.
Collurio tephronotus Vigors, P. Z. S., 1831, p. 43 (Himalayas, Gyantse, Tibet). Lanius tephronotus. Blanf. & Oates, i, p. 465.
Vernacular names. Bhadraya (Nep. Hills); Bagaha-tentha (Nep. Plains); Sakrik-pho (Lepcha); Totem (Bhut.); Dre-dre (Tibet).
Description. Similar to L. s. caniceps but a very much darker grey, this colour extending on to the rump and lesser wing-coverts; the central tail-feathers are chestnut-brown, not black, slightly darker only than the lateral ones; there is wo wing-speculum of white and the rufous edges to coverts and quills are more pronounced; below there is generally much more rufous.
Colours of soft parts. The same as in Lanius schach.
Measurements. "Wing 96 to 106 mm.; tail 100 to 117 mm.; tarsus about 28 to 29 mm.; culmen about 17 mm.
Nestling not distinguishable from that of L. schach.
Young like that of the Rufous-backed Shrike but with no wing-speculum and a chestnut-brown tail.
Distribution. Gilgit, Northern Kashmir, Ladak and the greater part of Tibet to Western China ; in Winter extending in India into the Punjab, United Provinces, Behar, Bengal and over the greater part of Burma as far South as Pakjan.
Nidification. The Grey-backed Shrike breeds in very great numbers in all the higher plateaus in Tibet from 10,000 to 15,000 feet. It makes a typical Shrike-like nest, a massive cup of fine twigs, grass, leaves and roots, nearly always mixed with wool and hair. It is generally lined with grass only but sometimes with wool or with wool and hair mixed. Almost any kind of site seems to satisfy this Shrike provided it is not too high. Some nests are placed low down in small thorny bushes within a foot of the ground, others in willows or small trees up to 20 feet high. The eggs number three to six, the number varying according to the year and possibly according to the food-supply. In some seasons three or four seems the normal clutch and the birds themselves are comparatively scarce, in other years the birds swarm and clutches of six are quite common. The eggs are like those of Lanius schach but, as a whole, very dull-coloured, and I have only seen one egg of the pink type. Two hundred eggs average 24n9 x 18n7 mm.: maxima 27n3 X19n3 mm.; minima 22n0 X 18n5 and 26n0 x 17n1 mm. The breeding-season lasts from May into August.
Habits. The Grey-backed Shrike is a bird of very great altitudes wandering up to 16,000 feet in Summer, whilst even in Winter many birds remain at 9,000 and 10,000 feet, though the great majority migrate down to the lower and foot hills or into the Plains themselves. As usual, the young migrate farthest afield and those found far South are nearly always immature. In their general habits they are like the rest of the genus but there is nothing on record about their song.