October 26, 2014

juv Northern Grey Shrike

text & photos © A. Bräunlich

Recently Terry Townshend, a British birder who is running the fabulous Birding Beijing blog, posted a “Mystery Shrike from Inner Mongolia, China” on the Birding Frontiers website. It soon turned out to be a juvenile Northern Grey Shrike Lanius borealis (or excubitor, see taxonomic note below) sibiricus.

Since there are very few photos of this taxon on the web I post here three digiscoped photos of a juvenile, taken at Jalman Meadows in northern Mongolia's Khentii Mountains.

Juvenile Northern Grey Shrike L. b. sibiricus
Jalman Meadows, Khentii Mts, N Mongolia, 7 Sept 2011

Juvenile Northern Grey Shrike L. b. sibiricus
Jalman Meadows, Khentii Mts, N Mongolia, 7 Sept 2011

Juvenile Northern Grey Shrike L. b. sibiricus
Jalman Meadows, Khentii Mts, N Mongolia, 7 Sept 2011

The forest steppe at Jalaman Meadows where
the L. borealis photos were taken. 7 Sept 2011


taxonomic note

Olsson et al. (2010) discussed the incongruence between the current taxonomy and the mitochondrial gene tree of the Lanius excubitor complex and related species. The concluded that, based on the mitochondrial gene tree the Lanius excubitor complex may be treated as at least six species, L. borealis, L. elegans, L. excubitor, L. lahtora, L. meridionalis, and L. uncinatus, but that other taxonomic treatments are also possible. The paper can be downloaded here.

Compare how similar the Jalman Northern Shrike looks to a young North American Lanius borealis: click here and here. Another indication, in addition to the genetics, that sibiricus should be treated as a subspecies of L. borealis, and not of L. excubitor (if the split is agreed with).

The following taxa of the Lanius excubitor complex occur in Mongolia (comments welcome!):

Northern Grey Shrike Lanius borealis

  • L. b. sibiricus breeding in N Mongolia
  • L. b. mollis breeding in NW Mongolia


Great Grey Shrike Lanius excubitor

  • L. e. homeyeri (includes leucopterus) very rare visitor NW Mongolia


Asian Grey Shrike Lanius lahtora

  • L. l. pallidirostis (Steppe or Saxaul Shrike) breeding in drier parts of C & S Mongolia


2 comments:

birdingbeijing.com said...

Thanks for posting these photos, Axel. A really close match to our bird, especially the upperparts. There aren't too many images of this plumage around, so it's good to have them published on your excellent blog! Cheers, Terry

Axel said...

Thanks Terry. More photos to be posted soon. Cheers, Axel