Definition of shrike in US English:



  • 1A songbird with a strong sharply hooked bill, often impaling its prey of small birds, lizards, and insects on thorns.

    Family Laniidae: several genera and numerous species, especially in Africa, e.g., the northern shrike (Lanius excubitor), of both Eurasia and North America

    Also called butcherbird
    • ‘The bees have come in swarms to suck scant drops of water from the ground under the garden tap, fighting with doves, pigeons, weavers and a family of shrikes for the last few thirst-quenching diamonds.’
    • ‘Birds such as grouse, crows, quail, partridge, nightjars, cuckoos, shrikes, larks, pipits, merlins, harriers, kestrels and buzzards would all have been seen.’
    • ‘The shrike had pinned smaller birds on the tree's black thorns and the sun had stripped them of their feathers.’
    • ‘The horned lizard Phrynosoma mcalli apparently uses the horns on its head to deter the shrike, a bird fond of impaling lizards on thorns or barbed wire for later consumption.’
    • ‘Mice, other birds, and large insects form the bulk of the shrike's diet.’
    • ‘Shrike babblers were originally described as shrikes, because of their hooked bill, but have been subsequently placed among babblers.’
    • ‘Male shrikes in Israel's Negev Desert impale snails and nest-building materials onto thorns to attract mates.’
    • ‘Because their feet are not large or strong enough to hold prey, shrikes find a crotch in a tree, a thorn, or barbed wire to hang their prey on while they eat.’
    1. 1.1 Used in names of birds similar to the shrike, e.g., peppershrike.


Mid 16th century: perhaps related to Old English scrīc ‘thrush’ and Middle Low German schrīk ‘corncrake’, of imitative origin.