Brown Shrike (Lanius cristatus) by alabang, on Flickr
This shrike is mainly brown on the upper parts and the tail is rounded. The black mask can be paler in winter and has a white brow over it. The underside is creamy with rufous flanks and belly. The wings are brown and lack any white "mirror" patches. Females tend to have fine scalloping on the underside and the mask is dark brown and not as well marked as in the male. The distinction is not easy to use in the field but has been tested with breeding birds in Japan where the female can be identified from the presence of a brood patch. The use of multiple measurements allows discrimination of the sex of about 90% of the birds. Subspecies lucionensis has a grey crown shading into the brown upperparts and the rump appears more rufous than the rest of the upperback. The tail is more brownish and not as reddish as in the Red-backed Shrike. Younger birds of lucionensis have brown crown and lacks the grey on the head. Supspecies superciliosus has a broad white supercilium and richer reddish crown. The tail is redder and tipped in white.
A number of confusing forms are known from central Asia where the populations of cristatus, isabellinus and collurio overlap. The taxonomy has been in a state of flux and some forms such as phoenicuroides formerly considered as subspecies of L. cristatus have been moved to the species L. isabellinus. Subspecies lucionensis has been recorded interbreeding with superciliosus in Ishikawa, Japan while superciliosus has interbred with Lanius tigrinus in central Japan.