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Lanius collaris (Common fiscal, Fiscal shrike) 

Fiskaallaksman [Afrikaans]; Inxanxadi, Umxhomi [Xhosa]; iLunga, iQola [Zulu]; Nankuwo (generic term for shrike) [Kwangali]; Tšemeli (also applied to Red-backed shrike and Lesser grey shrike) [South Sotho]; Korera [Shona]; Juka, Rhiyani (these terms also applied to Lesser grey shrike) [Tsonga]; Tlhômêdi [Tswana]; Gekraagde klauwier [Dutch]; Pie-grièche fiscale [French]; Fiskalwürger [German]; Picanço-fiscal [Portuguese]

Life > Eukaryotes > Opisthokonta > Metazoa (animals) > Bilateria > Deuterostomia > Chordata > Craniata > Vertebrata (vertebrates)  > Gnathostomata (jawed vertebrates) > Teleostomi (teleost fish) > Osteichthyes (bony fish) > Class: Sarcopterygii (lobe-finned fish) > Stegocephalia (terrestrial vertebrates) > Tetrapoda (four-legged vertebrates) > Reptiliomorpha > Amniota > Reptilia (reptiles) > Romeriida > Diapsida > Archosauromorpha > Archosauria > Dinosauria (dinosaurs) > Saurischia > Theropoda (bipedal predatory dinosaurs) > Coelurosauria > Maniraptora > Aves (birds) > Order: Passeriformes > Family: Laniidae

Lanius collaris (Common fiscal, Fiscal shrike) 

Common fiscal. [photo Callie de Wet ©]

Common fiscal subspecies, found in the Kalahari Desert. [photo Callie de Wet ©]

Distribution and habitat

Widespread across sub-Saharan Africa, absent from much of the DRC, Somalia and Ethiopia. In southern Africa it occurs almost everywhere in South Africa, extending into much of Namibia, Zimbabwe and southern Botswana. It occupies a wide variety of habitats but generally prefers open habitats with scattered trees, such as savanna, open woodland, shrubland and grassland. It is also extremely common in man-made habitats such as gardens, parks, farmland and roadsides.

Distribution of Common fiscal in southern Africa, based on statistical smoothing of the records from first SA Bird Atlas Project (© Animal Demography unit, University of Cape Town; smoothing by Birgit Erni and Francesca Little). Colours range from dark blue (most common) through to yellow (least common). See here for the latest distribution from the SABAP2.  

Brood parasites

It has been recorded as host of the Jacobin cuckoo.


One of the reasons of this species success lies in its varied diet and clever hunting techniques. It often uses a sit and wait technique in which it hunts from a prominent perch, remaining almost motionless, scanning the area with its sharp eyes. When it spots something it glides to the ground and attempts to catch its prey. If the food item is small it usually eats it on the spot, but if it is larger it either eats it on its perch or impales the animal on a thorn  barbed wire. It often uses specific thorny tree or barbed wire fence as a "larder", sometimes storing dozens of animals at one site. It eats a variety of animal prey, such as invertebrates, birds and their chicks and small rodents. The following food items have been recorded in its diet:


  • It is a monogamous, highly territorial solitary nester. Males defend their territory ferociously against other males, often grabbing their opponent with their claws and then pecking them repeatedly.
  • The female handles most of the nest construction, a process which lasts 2-5 days. It is a thickly walled cup made of twigs, flower heads, bark, grass, leafy herbs and moss, sometimes also including paper, rags, spider web, feathers and cocoons. It is usually placed in the fork of a thorny bush or small tree, building a new nest each breeding season.
Lanius collaris (Common fiscal, Fiscal shrike)  

Common fiscal nest with eggs, Wakkerstroom, South Africa. [photo Warwick Tarboton ©]

  • Typically 2-3 broods are produced within the breeding season each consisting of a 1-5, usually 3-4 egg clutch. These are incubated mainly by the female for 12-16 days.
  • The chicks are fed mainly by the mostly the female in the first week, after which the male gradually takes more responsibility. They stay in the nest for about 14-21 days and can feed for themselves about 3 weeks later. However, they only become independent after a few more weeks, leaving their parents territory at about 4 months old.


Not threatened, in fact widespread and common.



  • Hockey PAR, Dean WRJ and Ryan PG 2005. Roberts - Birds of southern Africa, VIIth ed. The Trustees of the John Voelcker Bird Book Fund, Cape Town.