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The Laniidæ or Shrike Family

Shrikes or butcher-birds are hawks in miniature, as regards habits if not in structure. With the exception of the brown shrike (Lanius cristatus), which is merely a winter visitor to India, the rufous-backed shrike (L. erythronotus) is the only butcher-bird common on the Nilgiris. The head of this species is pale grey, the back is of ruddy hue. The lower parts are white. The forehead and a broad band running through the eye are black. A bird having a broad black band through the eye is probably a shrike, and if the bird in question habitually sits on an exposed branch or other point of vantage, and from thence swoops on to the ground to secure some insect, the probability of its being a butcher-bird becomes a certainty.

Closely related to the shrikes are the minivets. Minivets are birds of tit-like habits which wander about in small flocks from place to place picking insects from the leaves of trees. They are essentially arboreal birds. I have never seen a minivet on the ground.

The common minivet of the Nilgiris is the orange minivet (Pericrocotus flammeus). The head and back of the cock are black. His wings are black and flame-colour, the red being so arranged as to form a band running lengthwise and not across the wing. The tail feathers are red, save the median pair, which are black. During flight the flashing red obliterates the black, so that the moving birds resemble tongues of flame and present a beautiful and striking spectacle. The hen is marked like the cock, but in her the red is replaced by bright yellow. This beautiful bird ceases to be abundant at elevations higher than Coonoor.