The white tailed shrike is one of the most easily recognized shrikes in the Southern African region. Looking a bit like an overgrown batis in its black, white and grey plumage, it gives the impression that its head is too big for its short-tailed body and long legs. It is a fairly small passerine, just 15 cm in length.
It is a near endemic to Namibia, found from a little south of Windhoek northwards into south west Angola. Throughout this region it is a common resident in areas of scrubby savanna and thornbush. It is usually found in pairs or small groups of around 12 birds. They forage in trees, gleaning insects from branches and foliage, and also in bushes and on the ground. They are active and restless, continuously on the move.
It is a noisy species, with a variety of far-carrying whistles and ringing calls from the males that are often answered by the females. Sexes are alike in plumage and the female is a little larger than the male. They are monogamous and the nest is a cup usually placed in a shrub or small tree. The female lays 2 to 3 eggs in the clutch that hatch after an incubation period of about 15 days. They have a life expectancy of around 16 years.
The scientific name for the White-tailed shrike is Lanioturdus torquatus; lanioturdus
from the Latin “lanius” , a butcher or executioner (hence a shrike) and “turdus”, a thrush; torquatus being the Latin for collared. Thus it is a collared bird that looks like a shrike and also looks like a thrush. Now that’s a good name!
(Jane says: I think it looks like its wearing a little grey waistcoat and a black bow-tie!)