Wild Birds

Shrikes

Shrikes

A shrikes is a passerine bird of the family Laniidae which is known for its habit of catching insects, small birds or mammals and impaling their bodies on thorns. This helps them to tear the flesh into smaller, more conveniently-sized fragments, and serves as a “larder” so that the shrike can return to the uneaten portions at a later time.

Shrikes Sits on a Post
Shrikes Sits on a Post

A typical shrike’s beak is hooked, like a bird of prey, reflecting its predatory nature.

Most shrike species occur in Eurasia and Africa, but two breed in North America. There are no members of this family in South America or Australia.

Some shrike are also known as “butcher birds” because of their habit of keeping corpses. Australasian butcherbirds are not shrike, although they occupy a similar ecological niche.

 

Species of Laniidae

Bull-headed Shrike on a Thorn Tree
Bull-headed Shrike on a Thorn Tree

Other species, popularly called “shrikes,” are in the families:

The Prionopidae and Malaconotidae are quite closely related to the Laniidae, and were formerly included in the shrike family. The cuckoo-shrikes are not closely related to the true shrikes.

 
 
 
 
 
 
 

Gordon Ramel

Gordon is an ecologist with two degrees from Exeter University. He's also a teacher, a poet and the owner of 1,152 books. Oh - and he wrote this website.

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