by Marilyn and Keith Davis

"The Butcher Bird"

loggerhead shrike

         Loggerhead Shrike The Loggerhead Shrike, just an inch smaller than a Mockingbird or Robin, thinks of itself as a full grown hawk. This Shrike doesn’t have the strong feet or talons of a raptor, but it does have a strong hooked bill for gripping flesh. It uses its hooked beak to kill insects, lizards, mice, and small birds and then impales them on thorns to hold them while it rips them apart. This is one fierce little raptor! When it finds prey, it kills by biting the back of the neck, and cutting the spinal cord. The common name is ‘butcher bird’ because of its habit of tearing its prey apart and impaling the pieces of meat or insect on spines of plants or barbed wire fences. This stash becomes his ‘pantry’ to store food for an unsuccessful hunting day, or to impress the lady Shrikes with his great hunting abilities.

         Shrikes were once common in North America, but have suffered a serious decline over the last 50 years primarily as a result of habitat loss, effects of pesticides, predation, and collisions with vehicles. They require grasses, spiny shrubs, pastures, hay meadows with hedges, shrubs, and low trees for habitat. The Washington fields was a good area to happen or chance upon a Shrike during the Winter Bird Festival.

         If you have questions about birds or the monthly activities of the Red Cliffs Audubon, call 435 673-0996. Our website features bird pictures, photographs, field trips, and schedules of upcoming events. The artist of the Loggerhead Shrike is Marilyn Davis.

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