Lanius, the typical shrikes, are a genus of passerine  birds in the shrike  family. The majority of the family’s species are placed in this genus. African species are known as fiscals. That name comes from the Afrikaans  word fiskaal (“public official”, especially a hangman), because they hang their prey on thorns for storage.

Most Lanius species occur in Eurasia and Africa, but the Great Grey Shrike has a circumpolar distribution, and the Loggerhead Shrike is confined to North America. There are no members of this genus or the shrike family in South America or Australia.

Lanius shrikes are birds of open habitats typically seen perched upright on a prominent perch like a treetop or a telegraph pole. They sally out for prey, taken in flight or the ground. These species primarily take large insects, but will also take small birds, reptiles and mammals. For large northern species such as the Great Grey, the majority of the prey will be vertebrates, especially in winter.

Despite their diet, these are not true birds of prey, and lack the strong talons of the raptors. Though they use their feet to hold smaller insects, larger prey items are impaled upon a sharp point, such as a thorn or the barbs of barbed wire. Thus secured they can be ripped open with the hooked bill.

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