Great Grey Shrike

Butcher Bird

Lanius Excubitor (“watchful butcher”) is known by quite a few other names, including the Butcher Bird, Shrike, Gray Shrike, Steppe Grey Shrike and, in Spanish, Alcaudón Norteño, which translates to Northern Shrike.

They’re a small bird, being between 22 and 26cm in length with a wing span of about 11.4cm, although there are some smaller and larger subspecies.

Despite it’s pretty appearance, this little bird can be quite a ruthless killer, a carnivore whose diet is largely made up of insects, songbirds and small mammals. When hunting they will either perch as high as they can, or they will also hover, similar to a kestrel, and swoop down on an insect or even a small bird. Anything that is too large to swallow in one go will be taken and impaled on a sharp point, either thorns of a plant or barbed wire. This then secures the prey for easy eating in bite-sized pieces or for storing and eating later.

They are territorial and prefer to be in areas of open grassland that has some high lookout points, such as trees, rocks, fence posts, or as in the photo above, tall cacti!

They are monogamous for just one season, with the male trying to coerce the female by displaying his white markings of wings in flight, showing off his hunting skills and feeding her, and ritual dances.

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