This migratory medium-sized passerine eats large insects, small birds, rodents and lizards. Like other shrikes it hunts from prominent perches, and impales corpses on thorns or barbed wire as a larder. It breeds in open cultivated country, preferably with thorn bushes.
The plumage is isabelline, the sandy colour which gives rise to its name. It has a red tail. Young birds can be distinguished from young red-backed shrikes by the much sparser vermiculations on the underparts.