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Any of approximately 80 species of solitary predatory songbirds (family Laniidae), especially any of the 25 species of the genus Lanius. Shrikes kill insects, lizards, mice, and birds with their bill or may impale their prey on a thorn (earning them the name butcher bird). Most species are gray or brownish and have a harsh call; several Eurasian species have reddish or brown markings. The great gray shrike (L. excubitor), called northern shrike in Canada and the U.S., is about 10 in. (25 cm) long and has a black mask. The only other New World species is the similar but smaller loggerhead shrike (L. ludovicianus) of North America.
This entry comes from Encyclopædia Britannica Concise. For the full entry on shrike, visit Britannica.com.