Thursday, 1 December 2005

Bird of the Month (December)

Common Garden Birds: Brown Shrike

It's that time of the year again when we have tourists visiting us from foreign lands. By tourists I mean, migratory birds who are spending the cold winter months in Malaysia.
Among the visitors that we see are the cute but very vocal Brown Shrikes (lanius cristatus). They arrive in great numbers in September and remain here until April, after which they return to their homes in the north i.e. China, Korea and Japan.

They are commonly seen perched erect on exposed twigs, fences, wires while catching insects on the ground. During the first few weeks of their arrival you can hear their harsh chatter every morning as they set up their home territories for the few months here. They are very territorial and would chase away other resident species of birds from established territory.

Key idenfication features:

Broad black eyeline, whitish supercilium and forehead distinctive. Upperpart colour varies from rufous brown to ash brown depending on subspecies. Underpart colour varies from white to buff.

Upperparts scaled with thin blackish bars with dark scalings on sides of breast and flanks. Eyeline dull blackish brown; supercilium buff and usually does not extend to forehead.


Loud harsh crackling , kreech- kreech- kreech… Also high pitched screeching notes. A soft chuckling subsong, usually from the end of February onwards.

Status & Distribution (P.M'sia)
Common winter migrant and visitor at low elevations. Occurs above 900m only during autumn and spring passage.

Scrubs, open country, reedbeds, the forest edge, plantations and gardens.

Source & Reference
Jeyarajasingam A. & Pearson A., A Field Guide to the Birds of West Malaysia and Singapore, Plate 66-590, 1999Davidson G.W.H. & Chew Y.F., A Photographic Guide to Birds of Borneo: Sabah, Sarawak, Brunei & Kalimantan, 2001

Picture courtesy of Andrew Wong