The Butcherbird


Bay Village, there is a butcher among you. This butcher can be found waiting and watching on the powerlines along Little Elk Road at the Weaver Road intersection. Like other butchers, the Loggerhead Shrike (Lanius ludovicianus) is a helpful friend to the local farmers. Shrikes eat insects, lizards, and mice. One of the many nicknames or common names of this bird is "mouse hawk". (source) In the wintertime, when insects are scarce, it is reported that they feed almost exclusively on mice. In one antidote that I found in a book from 1901- the author reported that " the Southern Planter will tell you in his fields the shrikes kill mice like cats". (source) Their sharp, hooked beak is perfect for ripping the mice into pieces to be eaten.

But perhaps the real reason that the Loggerhead Shrike is known as the Butcherbird is that, like a butcher hanging up meat, it has the habit of impaling it victims on large thorns or along a barbed wire fence. Often times it comes back to collect and eat its victims, but sometimes it doesn't. It leaves the carcasses hanging, wasting away. Nature is cool- but sometimes not neat and orderly.

Ornithologists believe that the Loggerhead Shrike uses thorns and barbed wire fences for more than a storage option. It is believed that Loggerhead Shrikes also use the thorns and barbs (as well as forked branches) to help hold their victims so that they can eat them. Although Loggerhead Shrikes have strong, raptor like bills, their legs are very weak and can't be used for subduing or holding a struggling victim. So they improvise and use tools.

At first glance, the Loggerhead Shrike is easy to confuse with a Northern Mockingbird, so much so that it is also referred to as the "French Mockingbird". Visually, the Loggerhead Shrike differs from the Northern Mockingbird by having a black band across its eyes and its beak is much more thick and curved than the bill of the Northern Mockingbird. Even without getting near enough to see the detail of either bird, they are easily distinguished by either their song or their flight. The Mockingbird flies in a swimming fashion- up and down; whereas the Loggerhead Shrike flies in a straight line; not dipping up and down in altitude like the Mockingbird. Note, the Loggerhead Shrikes "song" is an important component of its name. It is reported that the word "shrike" has the same root as "shriek." The word Loggerhead is thought to refer to the large head of the Loggerhead Shrike which is much larger in proportion to its body as compared with other birds. (source)

The meanings of the Loggerhead Shrike's scientific name:
Lanius - butcher
ludovicianus - Louisiana

Text not available
Birds of Village and Field A Bird Book for Beginners By Florence Merriam Bailey

11 comments:

Sandpiper said...

Another interesting post. I like your pictures and illustrations, too. You have a really good blog here. Thanks!

Sandpiper said...

Thanks for visiting my blog today, Daniel. Nice to meet you. :)

The Giraffe Head Tree said...

Coolness! I've not seen a Loggerhead Shrike but know they're in the area. I'll keep my eyes peeled and camera at ready! Thanks, Daniel - very interesting post and great photo. Was that taken on Snake Road? Kestrels perch there, too, but I've not gone down there to photograph them.

Kathiesbirds said...

Daniel, very informative and well writtien post! I remember first learning about these birds when I lived in Colorado. What a shock it was to learn that such a small cute bird could be ( I thought then) so horrible! Not so now. They are amazing, aren't they. Thanks for visitng my blog!

Naturegirl said...

Daniel how nice to meet a fellow nature lover! I am trying to capture the many birds I see here in Arizona but they are playing shy with my camera!! Sooner or later I'll capture a few!
sunkissed NG

Stacey Huston said...

Great photo! thanks for the info.

Carolyn Hietala said...

What a beautiful photo and very informative info ;0)

Moe said...

Very nice and interesting post! And great photo!

April said...

I found your journal posting very interesting. The Loggerhead Shrike does look quite formidable; I kept looking at that sharp hook all the time I was reading about how they impale their prey. I have to admit that this side of Nature makes me a little squeamish. I know it's part of the balance, but... However, it's nice to know that they help to keep the mice population in check.

Chris said...

I love your picture of him! I love his bandit eyes! I have not seen one in person so looking at your post is such a treat. Thanks for sharing.

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