Southern Fiscal (Lanius collaris)

Cover photo: Southern Fiscal BirdPix 8316 – Desire Darling


The Southern Fiscal can be identified by its distinct black and white colouration and its strongly hook-shaped bill. It has a black bill, face, and legs. It has a characteristic white “V” on its back and a relatively long black tail with white outer feathers. Adult male and female Southern Fiscals are quite similar apart from the rufous/chestnut patch of feathers the female has on her sides. The Fiscal Flycatcher has a similar black and white pattern, but it has a thinner and pointed bill.

Identification of adult Southern Fiscals, male and female
Photo right: BirdPix 80962 – Neels Jackson, Pretoria, Gauteng, 06 June 2019. Photo left: BirdPix 5920 – Gregg Darling, St Francis Bay, Eastern Cape, 13 August 2013. Inset photo: BirdPix 3424 – Vaughan Jessnitz, St Lucia, KwaZulu-Natal, 20 May 2012.

The north-western subspecies of the Southern Fiscal has a distinct white eyebrow as shown in the photos below.

Identification of the northern subspecies of the Southern Fiscale
Photo left: BirdPix 172075 – Deon Van der Hoven, Pretoria, Gauteng, 19 June 2021. Photo right: BirdPix 4322 – John & Stephen Tinkler, Upington, Northern Cape, 24 April 2013.

Their call is a jumbled mix of shrike-like swizzling sounds including some imitations. Also a harsh “Dzzzttt-dzzzt-dzzzt” alarm call.

Juveniles have pale brown upperparts and creamy underparts with thin dark barring.

Identification of juvenile Southern Fiscals
Juvenile Southern Fiscals. Photo left: BirdPix 15387 – Gregg & Desire Darling, Usakos, Namibia, 31 December 2014. Photo right: BirdPix 98413 – Pamela Kleiman, Underberg, KwaZulu-Natal, 09 November 2019.


It occupies a wide variety of habitats but generally prefers open habitats with scattered trees, such as savanna, open woodland, shrubland and grassland. It is also very common in human-altered habitats like gardens, parks, farmland, and roadsides. They love places with good perches from where they can scan for potential prey.

This is the kind of habitat that Southern Fiscals occur in
Top left: BirdPix 48865 – Dewald du Plessis, Mokala National Park Northern Cape, 04 May 2014. Top right: BirdPix 24820 – Martyn Drabik-Hamshare, Pietermaritzburg, KwaZulu-Natal, 28 February 2016. Bottom left: BirdPix 209722 – Jon Blanco, New Holme Lodge, Northern Cape, 27 February 2022. Bottom right: BirdPix 2479 – Fanie Rautenbach, Table View, Cape Town, Western Cape, 19 May 2013.


Widespread across sub-Saharan Africa, but absent from much of the Democratic Republic of Congo, Somalia and Ethiopia. In southern Africa it occurs almost everywhere in South Africa, extending into much of Namibia, Zimbabwe and southern Botswana. The Southern African Bird Atlas Project (SABAP2) data on the Southern Fiscal are displayed in the map below. The blue and green squares (i.e., pentads) are the core of its range in South Africa, Lesotho and eSwatini. These are the pentads where their reporting rate is highest.

SABAP2 distribution map for Southern Fiscal
SABAP2 distribution map for Southern Fiscal, downloaded 01 June 2022. Details for map interpretation can be found here.


The Southern Fiscal is usually solitary and hunts insects and small rodents from an exposed perch and can often be seen at the tops of shrubs or small trees. They have a habit of impaling their prey on thorn tree thorns or fences so as to store the prey items for later consumption. This is why they are also known as Jackie Hangman or the Butcher Bird.

Southern Fiscal and prey items
Southern Fiscals with various prey items. Photo left: BirdPix 52574 – Anthony Archer, Hartbeesfontein, North West Province, 27 April 2018. Photo right: BirdPix 130461 – Karis Daniel, Worcester, Western Cape, 12 September 2020.

Further resources

Species text from the first Southern African Bird Atlas Project (SABAP1), 1997.

Virtual Museum (BirdPix > Search VM > By Scientific or Common Name).

More common names: Fiskaallaksman (Afrikaans); Inxanxadi (Xhosa); iLunga (Zulu); Pie-grièche Fiscale (French); Fiskalwürger (German); Gekraagde Klauwier (Dutch).

List of bird species in this format is available here.

Recommended citation format: Loftie-Eaton M, Daniel KA 2022. Southern Fiscal Lanius collaris. Bird Feeder Project. Biodiversity and Development Institute. Available Online at

Bird Feeder Project: Karis Daniel & Megan Loftie-Eaton
Bird Feeder Project: Karis Daniel & Megan Loftie-Eaton
The Bird Feeder Project is a BDI citizen science initiative involving school learners and youth eco-clubs. Learners are taught a scientific protocol for doing 10-minute watches and recording the species they see, in the order they see them. The Bird Feeder Project includes an online identification guide to about 30 of the species seen in gardens in Cape Town. Students will learn how to upload their cellphone photos into the BirdPix section of the Virtual Museum, where they will be curated for posterity. The 10-minute watches will rapidly grow into a valuable monitoring database. Karis Daniel is the Project Coordinator and put together the identification guide, Megan Loftie-Eaton helped with the species texts.