Shrikes are small but awe-inspiring birds of prey. Two species of shrike reside in the U.S., the Northern Shrike and the Loggerhead Shrike. The Northern Shrike summers in Northern Canada and Alaska and winters in the northern half of the states, while the Loggerhead Shrike lives year-round in the southern states and moves northward in the breeding season (I have photos of a Loggerhead near Chicago).

The Loggerhead Shrike pictured above displays the thicker black mask when compared to the Northern Shrike, one that generally rises over the eye and extends over the bill to form a single, connected mask. They really remind me of the Lone Ranger.

Their taste for birds, lizards and small mammals such as mice is complicated by the fact that they have the feet of perching birds (passerines) rather than talons of other birds of prey. To compensate, shrikes have evolved a method of killing their prey by biting their neck to induce paralysis and then shaking them to break their neck and impaling them on thorns, twigs or even barbed-wire! Yes, they can break the necks of mice by rolling their heads at high speeds. They will also leave prey impaled on these as a larder for future meals. They are affectionately known as “butcherbirds”.

In December of 2017 I was at Lakes Park in Fort Myers, Florida, and I saw a couple Loggerhead Shrikes. It all started out innocently enough as I started taking photos of one of them, but the situation quickly went south. Here’s a rough running commentary of my thoughts during that photo shoot!

Playing a little rough, I see. Hey, watch out for the little stick there!

What the??? Auugh! Impaling the lizard on the stick!

What a relief, it’s over.

Yikes, again!

and again,

Admiring his work.

And again and again.

…and after many repeated impalings that I omit here (you’re welcome),

Feeling pretty proud, I guess.

Yikes! He’s coming right at me!

Still coming right at me!

This is literally my next shot as I veered away from the shrike and nearly fell.

Note to self: Watch out for this killer.

11 thoughts on “Shrieks and Shrikes

    1. Sorry about that! I almost wrote a warning before the pics about finishing up any food or drink before continuing. It could have been worse. First, there were more shots of the impalement process that I omitted. Second, I did not mention that you can actually see the twig sticking up out of the lizard’s neck in the 8th and 9th pictures (don’t look).

      Thanks very much for commenting! That was lightning fast. I added your blog to my Blogroll yesterday when I started up my blog along with Brian H.’s and Reed’s. I’ve read through a lot of your posts, and I really should start commenting on yours, which is really fascinating (plus I always dream about getting a kayak someday–ever get seasick on one, because I get seasick sitting in cars.).

      Ron

      Liked by 1 person

      1. No worries, I don’t loose my lunch that easy. No wonder the bird attacked you, you had complete evidence of his crime.
        Not seasick but my nerves have gotten away with some of the new things I have tried this last year. Glad to see you blogging.

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  1. Super sequence of shots Ron, that last image is a cracker! Sadly we only get shrikes passing through the UK. The Red Backed used to breed now it’s a spring and autumn vagrant. The Great Grey (your northern) can spend the winter in very small numbers. I have seen three others in this country the Woodchat and Lesser Grey rarities from Europe and a Brown Shrike a major rarity from Asia. Absolutely love this family of birds. No surprise one attacked you then, lol.

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    1. Thanks, Brian! I assume that being a cracker is a good thing for an image to be–ha! When I was looking up facts on this bird I saw a site that said the two types of shrike in the US were the Loggerhead and Great Grey, which confused me until I decided to ignore that site entirely. Strange that we share that same bird.

      I see Northern Shrikes occasionally in forest preserves around me, which is a treat. They tend to perch high in a tree and swoop down, usually returning after a stop or two to the same high perch. Beautiful birds. I’m beginning to wonder if birds see their reflection in my lens and think it’s a rival bird in their territory. My brother Brian has a much larger lens, but maybe his actually sports expensive anti-reflective coating…

      Thanks again for commenting! Your blog of beautiful photos is also listed in my Blogroll now. And now I’ll have to stop lurking on your blog and add some comments there as well.

      Ron

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  2. Seriously!!! You haven’t blogged in over two years and when you decide to start blogging again (big thanks to Brian from across the pond’s encouragement) and you pull out your Shrike series. I am not sure what the blogging equivalent to the old shopping saying “here, take all my money!” – wait, I know “here, take all my blog readers!”, because everyone will see your work and say the hell with that Intrigued dude, I’m going with this here quality. I had to laugh at TCJ’s comment, this is definitely a brutal series. I am very familiar with these soulless creatures and you are aware of how jealous I am of you getting these behavioral pictures – I’ve been trying to get shots of their carnage forever. You take the trip to go pick up Dad and sure enough you get a Shrike smacking the life out of a lizard. I still want to get the iconic picture of Mice and Finches impaled on Locusts thorns (yes, TCJ, it does get worse, trust me – the modern day aviary form of Vlad the Impaler – not a bird you want to cuddle up with at night, that’s for sure). All I can say is nice job and can’t wait for the next post (Colts at Chain, the Kittwake you scared away before I got there, the Moorhen you risked life and limb for, the snake with the trophy fish it it’s mouth, navigating through 10′ high reeds at Gander….hmmmm, what will it be)

    Liked by 2 people

    1. Thanks for commenting! I was short on time so I went with some shots I had already processed, that’s all. I was more concerned about scaring off any readers with the gore! You certainly don’t have to worry about blowing away my blog in quality!

      Actually, the shrike had not finished the lizard when it took off for me, so after I dusted myself off I spent some time looking for the rest of the lizard impaled on a twig for future dining, but was unable to find it. Oh, well.

      Next post?? There’s supposed to be another one???

      Ron

      Liked by 1 person

  3. Thanks! I visited your blog and saw your excellent photographs of birds, insects and flowers! Plus cats, which is cool because we have two of them ourselves.

    It was fortunate that the tree bearing this shrike was a low one, so he wasn’t up high and out of sight. I see from your photos that the Fiscal Shrike also has a mask but is prettier overall, I think, with a white supercilium and a much longer tail!

    I don’t recognize many of your birds, except the Mynah that I saw in Australia. I notice that you have quite a few species of Sunbird–we don’t have them in the US, but I included an Olive-backed Sunbird in my title photo at http://www.rondoerflerphotography.com , taken in the northeastern corner of Australia (Cape Tribulation).

    Thanks again for your nice comment.

    Ron

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