An adult Great Grey Shrike is 22 to 26 cm (8.7 to 10.2 in) long. It typically weighs around 60 to 70 g. The general colour of the upperparts is pearl grey, tinged brownish towards the east of its Eurasian range. The cheeks and chin as well as a thin and often hard-to-see stripe above the eye are white, and a deep black mask extends from the beak through the eye to the ear coverts. The area above the beak is grey. The underparts are white, slightly tinged with grey in most subspecies. The tail is long, black and pointed at the tip. The bill is large and hooked at the tip and coloured nearly black. The legs and feet are blackish.

Habitat and Distribution

The Great Grey Shrike occurs throughout most temperate and subarctic regions of the Northern Hemisphere. Its range is limited to areas of northern latitude in Eurasia. In the high mountains of the Altai-Tian Shan region, it ranges south. The preferred habitat is generally open grassland, perhaps with shrubs interspersed, and adjacent lookout points. In steppe, it will utilize any isolated perch, be it fence posts, power lines or rocks.


They feed on small vertebrates and large invertebrates. To hunt, this bird perches on the topmost branch of a tree, telegraph pole or similar elevated spot. It will drop down in a light glide for terrestrial prey or swoop hawk-like on a flying insect.


Great Grey Shrikes breed during the summer. Nests are built in April or May more than 1 m above ground in trees. They build a cup nest, quite sizeable. Its body is constructed of coarse vegetable material - mainly large twigs and chunks of moss, though bits of fabric and rubbish may be added. The clutch is 3-9 eggs. The eggs have a white background color, usually with a grey hue or blue one. They have blotches of yellowish- to reddish-brown and purplish-grey. Incubation takes 16 days.

Calls and Songs

The male's song is some short pleasant warbling strophes, interspersed with fluid whistles. They have various contact calls: chlie(p), gihrrr, kw? or wuut. When disturbed its alarm note is a harsh jay-like k(w)eee, greee or jaaa, often repeated twice.