The White-tailed shrike is a pretty little bird and one of the few that is near endemic to Namibia. The males and females have similar grey, white and black plumage, which, together with a very upright stance, makes them look as though they are wearing very formal waistcoats. The females are slightly larger than the males. They are usually found in pairs or small groups and are often quite tame.
The White-tailed shrike is quite small as shrikes go, with a length of about 15 cm. It has a black head with a white forehead. It has a grey mantle and waistcoat; a black breast band separates the white throat from the white under parts; wings are black with large white patches; the short tail is white. The eyes are yellow; bill is black; legs and feet are black.
The preferred habitat of the White-tailed shrike is dry woodland such as acacia and mopane, especially that which includes rocky outcrops or steep hillsides. It feeds mainly on insects, caterpillars, and spiders, which it obtains mainly through gleaning in trees or foraging on the ground. It is not a shy bird, and will often visit campsites, parks and gardens.
The call of the male White-tailed shrike is a loud “pie-ouuww” which may be repeated several times and which is often answered by the female calling a single “tshrrr”.
White-tailed shrikes are monogamous and they build a deep cup-shaped nest, usually from strips of bark interwoven with spider webs. The female lays a clutch of two to three whitish-grey eggs that hatch after an incubation period of approximately 15 days.
The scientific binomial for the White-tailed shrike is Lanioturdus torquatus; Lanioturdus from the Latin for “shrike like a thrush”; and torquatus from the Latin for “collared”. Thus the name describes a thrush-like shrike that has a collar, which is not a bad description, although it really looks more like a batis in a waistcoat than a thrush with a collar.