Like other shrikes, the rufous-tailed shrike is rather raptor-like in its behaviour, using its strong, hooked bill to kill prey, and often grasping its victim with its feet. Lanius species are also well known for their habit of impaling prey on spikes or thorns, with the name ‘Lanius’ coming from the Latin for ‘butcher’ and giving these birds the alternative name of ‘butcher-birds’ (3) (4).
The rufous-tailed shrike feeds mainly on insects and small vertebrates, including rodents, lizards and birds (3) (4), and like other shrikes it may be able to consume noxious insects without ill effect (3). This species typically hunts from a prominent perch, scanning the surrounding area for potential prey before flying down to capture its victim. It may also sometimes take prey from low bushes or trees, or even capture it in the air (3).
The male rufous-tailed shrike is territorial, although the territories of different individuals tend to overlap. Like other shrikes, the rufous-tailed shrike is likely to be monogamous (3). The breeding season of this species varies between locations and between different subspecies, but generally runs from about April to June (3) (4).
The nest site is usually chosen by the male rufous-tailed shrike, and the male attempts to attract the female to potential sites by singing and displaying. The nest is typically built a couple of metres above the ground in a thorny bush, or sometimes in a tree or among reeds (3) (4). Both sexes help build the nest, which consists of a deep cup of twigs, bark, leaves, roots, grass, wool and feathers (3).
The rufous-tailed shrike may lay between three and eight eggs, although four to six is more common. The eggs are incubated by the female for 13 to 17 days (3) (4), while the male brings food to the nest (3). The young rufous-tailed shrikes leave the nest at about 12 to 16 days old, and are fed by both adults for a further month (3). Although the rufous-tailed shrike usually raises only a single brood each year, the subspecies L. i. isabellinus is thought to potentially raise a second. The nests of this shrike are sometimes parasitised by the common cuckoo (Cuculus canorus) (3) (4).