The Common Fiscal, or Southern Fiscal or Fiscal Shrike, is a familiar garden bird in South Africa, usually seen singly or in territorial pairs. Adults weigh about 40g and measure around 22cm in length. They prefer open habitats but are extremely adaptable to both natural and man-made environments. Fiscals feed on a wide variety of vertebrate and invertebrate prey ranging in size from flies, caterpillars and moths to frogs, lizards, snakes, birds and mice (occasionally fruit) and hunt from open perches, usually catching their prey on the ground. Their habit of impaling large prey items on thorns or barbed wire to consume later has earned them the alternative name of “butcher bird”.
Fiscal Shrikes breed throughout the year, with a peak during spring and summer, and pairs may raise as many as three broods in a year. The male defends the pair’s territory while the female does most of the nest-building, using vegetation and other soft materials to fashion a thick-walled cup in a thorny bush or tree. It is also the female that does most of the brooding, with clutches of 1-5 eggs hatching around two weeks after incubation started. The male then helps to feed the hatchlings, which leave the nest when they’re about 3 weeks old but stay in their parents’ territory for about another 3 months more.
The Common Fiscal is considered of least concern by the IUCN and distributed widely over sub-Saharan Africa. In South Africa they are found in virtually every corner of the country.