Tag Archives: White-tailed shrike

Bird of the Week – Week 139 – White-tailed shrike

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.

White-tailed shrike

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.

White-tailed shrike

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 shrike

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.

White-tailed shrike

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.

White-tailed shrike

 

Weekend at Erongo Wilderness Lodge

If you’re a regular reader you will know that we are avid campers and have camped all over Namibia.  We considered ourselves extremely spoilt therefore when we were given a night at the luxurious Erongo Wilderness Lodge for my birthday (thanks again Mick).  Not to be outdone by Mick, Rob chipped in for an extra night to make it a whole weekend treat!

Tented camp

Situated in the beautiful Erongo Mountains, this lodge stands proud as one of the leading lodges of Namibia.  Guests stay in fabulous tents perched on the side of the mountain.  Each tent has an en-suite open-air bathroom with all the mod-cons.  The entire tent sits under a thatched roof and has its own wooden patio overlooking the valley and the magnificent views.

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Just getting to there is an experience in itself.  To self-drive one has to have a 4×4 as the road up the mountain is very rocky and cannot be negotiated in an ordinary car.  Guests who don’t have 4×4’s are greeted at the gate and offered a lift up.  The drive up to Reception is spectacular and before we reached the office, baboons and rock rabbits (dassies), that sit like sentinels on the rocks, had already called out their welcome.

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After checking in we were offered a guided walk to the top of the mountain so that we could watch the sun going down.   The views from the top were amazing and we were very amused by a lone chair perched on the highest point, that looked out over the vast expanse of land below.   The dry Omaruru River could be seen cutting a swathe through the barren landscape.  Our guide carried snacks and drinks for us to make the sunset even more memorable!

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The open-air dining room overlooks a floodlit waterhole where animals come to drink.  We also saw many nightjars and bats catching the insects that gathered around the floodlight.  We were delighted when a porcupine ambled past the dining room on his way to the kitchen for a snack.  This was the first time that we’d seen a porcupine in the wild as they are nocturnal creatures.  In Namibia you have to carry a camera with you at all times otherwise you miss out on special moments like this

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We were up at six the next morning to take a guided hike around the mountains.  We specifically asked for a guide who was knowledgeable about birds and were very impressed by the young man who accompanied us.  He identified a Verreaux’s Eagle flying overhead and took us on a long detour to find its nest perched on the side of a rocky cliff.   When I mentioned the nightjars that we’d seen at the waterhole the night before, he offered to show us a pair that he said slept quite near our tent during the day.  We notched up a ‘lifer’ with the Freckled Nightjars and were happy to be able to photograph them.   Here local knowledge was essential for finding them, as they blended into the rocks so well.

Sleeping Freckled nightjar

I was fortunate enough to  spot a rare and elusive black mongoose on a rocky plain.  We also saw leopard footprints, a horned adder soaking up the sun and numerous birds.   A common resident in the Erongo area is the White-tailed Shrike. I love these birds with their sweet little grey waistcoats!

White-tailed shrike

As always, the weekend was very special.  Whether we’re in a tent or a lodge, wherever we spend our weekends in Namibia they are certain to offer up many delights in the way of scenery, birds and nature.  This weekend was no exception and we came away with many more memories of this awesome country.

Bird of the week – Week 10 : White-tailed shrike

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 torquatuslanioturdus
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!)