Red-backed shrike

Bandit-masked male

A male red-backed shrike, photo Eero Haapanen

The red-backed shrike (Lanius collurio) is a bird usually found in sun-baked forest clearings and at the edges of meadows on hot summer days. It needs dense rose bushes, junipers or piles of twigs to make its nest in. It hunts by spotting large insects from the top of a high perch, also snatching viviparous lizards and frogs when the opportunity arises.

The red-backed shrike often doesn’t arrive in Finland until early June, and migrates away as early as September. The impressive-looking male sports a black bandit mask, a blue-grey crown and a reddish brown back. The female and fledglings are brownish.

Shrikes are solitary birds, similar to birds of prey. They don’t form flocks, except with their broods in late summer. The red-backed shrike is not a city bird, preferring to nest in secluded sites instead. They can be seen at the edges of pastures in Viikki and in the meadows of the Kuninkaansaari fortress island next to Vallisaari island.