Grey-backed Fiscal (Lanius excubitoroides)

Grey-backed Fiscals are small, 10" (25cm) birds, although large by Shrike standards. A broad black face mask goes from one side of the neck to the other, covering the eyes and from forehead to bill. Black wings have broad white 'stripes' in them, seen on flying. A very long, broad black tail is half white underneath and with white panels on top. The grey mantle and back are diagnostic, separating it from the Common Fiscal.

Grey-backed Fiscals are gregarious Shrikes, often seen in sociable groups, perched on exposed branches and sometimes on the ground, wagging their tails and emitting squabbling calls.

Grey-backed Fiscals, with their hook-tipped bills are predatory birds. Perched out in open places, they pounce on their prey with strong feet and sharp claws. Their preference is for large insects like grasshoppers and beetles, as well as lizards frogs and mice. They are also known to take fledgling birds. Having caught their prey, they fly to Acacia bushes or trees, impale their victim on a thorn, then rip it apart. Smaller prey is sometimes eaten straight away. Larger prey can be left on the thorn, using it as a larder when food is scarce.

Grey-backed Fiscals are found in western Kenya, in a semi-circle around Lake Victoria, north to Mt Elgon, east to Lake Baringo and south to Nguruman. Mostly seen in open acacia woods near water, but also around cultivated areas.

Extra Grey-backed Fiscal Facts
Grey-backed Fiscals, amongst the other true Shrikes, are known as 'Butcherbirds', due to impaling their prey and leaving it on a thorn as a larder. Not to be confused with the real 'Butcherbirds' of Australia.
Fiscals were scientifically named after one of the Latin names for Butcher (Lanius).

Photographed at Kenya's Olare Orok Conservancy.

Categories & Keywords
Subcategory Detail:
Keywords:bird, fiscal, grey-backed fiscal, kenya, shrike, wildlife

Grey-backed Fiscal ~ Perched on Acacia

Grey-backed Fiscal ~ Perched on Acacia

Grey-backed Fiscal ~ Full-size

Side portrait of Grey-backed Fiscal, perched on top of an upright stick, with a plain green background.

Grey-backed Fiscal ~ Grabbing Grasshopper

A Grey-backed Fiscal, in an Acacia tree, with a grasshopper it is grabbing with a foot to eat.

Grey-backed Fiscal ~ Grasshopper In Its Beak

A Grey-backed Fiscal with a grasshopper in its bill, perched in an Acacia tree.

Grey-backed Fiscal ~ Swallowing Grasshopper

A Grey-backed Fiscal, eating a grasshopper. Its beak is wide open and a leg of the grasshopper can be seen in the Shrik'e throat.

Grey-backed Fiscal ~ Looking Smug

Grey-backed Fiscal facing the camera, looking smug after swallowing a grasshopper.

Grey-backed Fiscal ~ Larger Than Life

A Grey-backed Fiscal, perched with a bug it is about to eat.

Grey-backed Fiscal ~ Hunting

Grey-backed Fiscal foraging on the ground for grasshoppers or other large insects.

Grey-backed Fiscal ~ Perched On Twig

A Grey-backed Fiscal, perched amongst thorny branches of an Acacia bush.

Grey-backed Fiscal ~ Head Turned

Grey-backed Fiscal ~ Head Turned

Grey-backed Fiscal ~ Flying

A Grey-backed Fiscal flying from its perch, clearly showing the markings of its plumage.

Grey-backed Fiscal ~ Juvenile

A juvenile Grey-backed Fiscal, perched on a twig.  It lacks the grey back of the adult birds.

Grey-backed Fiscal ~ Full Size

Grey-backed Fiscal, perched sideways on top of an old tree stump.