LANIUS, the shrike, in natural histo ry, a genus of birds of the order Picze. Generic character: bill straightish, with a tooth or notch nearthe end of the upper mandible ; the tongue jagged at the end; outer toe connected with the middle one so far as the first joint. These birds are ranked by Gmelin with the Accipitres, and have been by others placed in the or der Passeres ; according to Kramer, Sco poli, and Pennant, however, they most appropriately attach to the Pica. There are, according to Gmelin, fifty.six spe cies. Latham enumerates forty-nine, of which it will be sufficient to notice the following : L. excubitor, the great shrike, is about the length of ten inches, and found in France in great numbers, but rare in England. It subsists on insects and small birds, seizing the last by the throat and strangling them, and then fix ing them (as some naturalists have re ported) on a thorn, from which it tears them piece-meal and devours them. To decoy them within its it imitates the songs of many birds, which approach, delighted by the sounds, and unsuspi cious of the danger. It is a favourite bird with husbandmen, as it is consider ed by them a mortal enemy to rats, mice, and other species of vermin. It, how ever, prefers mountainous and secluded situations to the neighbourhood of man kind. It appears contented in confine ment, hut is completely silent in it with respect to any song. It may often be
perceived to hang its food, before de vouring it, on the wires of its cage. See Ayes, Plate VIII. fig. 4.
L. colluris, or the red-backed shrike, is much more frequently to be met with in England than the last species. It is par ticularly fond of grass hoppers and bee tles, which, as indeed various other arti cles of its food, it will stick upon a thorn. The manners of this species and the last are, in fact, extremely similar. It imi tates the sounds of other birds, to decoy them to destruction. During incubation, the female discovers herself to any per son approaching her nest by violent cla mours of alarm. In St. Domingo there is a species of these birds daring in the ex treme, particularly in the breeding sea son, in which they will attack every bird that approaches, without hesitation or distinction. In Carolina there is another species equally intrepid and ferocious. They will assail the crow, and even the eagle, if it attempts to intrude upon their premises, collecting in considerable num bers against the aggressor, and seldom failing to make him repent of his temeri ty. These are denominated the tyrants of Carolina ; L. tyrannus, Lin.