Woodchat Shrike — First record for India from Alibaug, Maharashtra

by Parag S. Nandgaonkar
Parag S. Nandgaonkar

Chosen as 'Picture of the Week'

This seems to be a truly extraordinary instance of vagrancy, as the species barely reaches Iran and Baluchistan in Pakistan; a really rare bird in Asia. There are no records of this species from India and hence this record is of significance.

I am a birdlover and amateur photographer from Mumbai. On September 7, 2013, between 11:00 to 12:00 hours in the vicinity of Alibaug, Maharshtra, I was traveling on my bike looking to photograph some butterflies when I encountered this unfamiliar bird. The bird was very accommodating and allowed me to slowly approach fairly close. I posted the record shots on India Nature Watch (INW) where birdwatchers readily identified it as a Woodchat Shrike.

The Woodchat Shrike (Lanius senator) is a member of the shrike family Laniidae. The Woodchat Shrike breeds in southern Europe, the Middle East and northwest Africa, and winters in tropical Africa. This is the first record from the Indian subcontinent.

The male is a striking bird with black and white plumage and a chestnut crown. In the female and young birds the upperparts are brown and vermiculated (bearing wavy, wormlike lines). Underparts are buff and also vermiculated.

Like other shrikes it hunts from prominent perches, and impales corpses on thorns or barbed wires. Its diet includes insects, beetles, dragonflies, grasshoppers, wasps and bees, and sometimes small birds and amphibians.

The photographed bird is a female of the eastern race niloticus. It is in almost complete adult plumage; except that the forecrown and forehead have remnants of juvenile / first winter. Grimmett et al. (2011) treat it as a vagrant to Pakistan, while Kazmierczak (2000) indicates it as provisional with no reliable records with a doubtful mark around Baluchistan. The Baluchistan record is historically based on Sarudny (1911), who “lists it as a breeding bird of Persian Baluchistan,” (Paludan 1959). Rasmussen & Anderton (2012) mention a sub-adult collected on 4 May from Seistan in south-western Afghanistan; however Paludan (1959) notes that a specimen of the race L. s. niloticus was collected from the “Estuary of Farah Rud, Seistan,” on “4.iii.49.” A single bird was seen and photographed on 28 June 1998 near Karachi, Pakistan (Sutton 2002; Roberts 2002) and is probably the bird mentioned in Rasmussen & Anderton (2005), and Grimmett et al. (2011).

This seems to be a truly extraordinary instance of vagrancy, as the species barely reaches Iran and Baluchistan in Pakistan; a really rare bird in Asia. There are no records of this species from India and hence this record is of significance.

Reference: Woodchat Shrike Lanius senator from Alibaug, Maharashtra: A first record for India. Parag S. Nandgaonkar. Indian Birds. Vol.8, No. 6, 15 October 2013.



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