22/01/2004
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Long-tailed Shrike added to Category A of the British List

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The British Ornithologists' Union Records Committee (BOURC) has added Long-tailed Shrike (Lanius schach) to Category A of the British List following the occurrence of a bird at Howmore, South Uist, Outer Hebrides, Scotland on 3-4 November 2000 (sight record, photo). A shrike sp. Reported from nearby Howbeg on 27 October was probably this bird.

Long-tailed Shrike breeds from Kazakhstan and Turkmeniya east through China, Taiwan, Philippines, Indochina, Greater and Lesser Sundas to New Guineau. The race erythronotus is migratory in the northern part of its range (Kazakhstan and Turkmeniya) and it winters alongside resident erythronotus in northern India. There are extra-limital records from Japan (2), Oman (several), Israel (1) and Turkey (1).

The Uist bird arrived during a period in which other eastern vagrants were found in Britain, including a Brown Shrike on Fair Isle on 21 October, Isabelline Shrikes in Yorkshire 8-10 November, Tyneside 9-21 November and Wexford 20-30 November. There were also Turkestan and Steppe Grey Shrikes reported in Europe around the same time.

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Eric Meek, Chairman of BOURC commented, 'the identification of the South Uist Long-tailed Shrike to species level posed no problems and the question of whether the species should be added to the British List revolved entirely around the possibility of it having escaped from captivity. Plumage characters showed that it was in its first winter and that it was probably of the migratory race erythronotus from the northern part of the species' range. We could not be absolutely certain of the race as two characters (lilac tinge to the neck and white above the eye) were indicative of the race caniceps, a race that has a more southerly distribution than erythronotus though contiguous with it. We could find no evidence of either erythonotus or caniceps being kept in captivity although the nominate form L. s. schach is. However, even schach appears to be currently very rare in trade in Europe. With a captive origin highly improbable, a likely date and locality and a good supporting cast of eastern vagrants, BOURC were unanimous in accepting Long-tailed Shrike onto Category A of the British List.

This addition means that the British List is now 566 species (Category A = 543; Category B = 14; Category C = 9).

BRITISH ORNITHOLOGISTS' UNION

The Natural History Museum, Tring, Hertfordshire HP23 6AP, UK
Tel: +44 (0) 1 442 890 080
Fax: +44 (0) 20 7942 6150
Email: bou@bou.org.uk
Website: www.bou.org.uk/www.ibis.ac.uk

British Birds Rarities Committee

Bag End, Churchtown, Towednack, Cornwall TR26 3AZ.