Friday, December 30, 2016

Loggerhead Shrike at San Luis National Wildlife Refuge

The Loggerhead Shrike is a fascinating little bird.  One of the first things you might learn or notice about the habits of this shrike is that it is a songbird in the traditional sense, but acts more like a raptor.  It is typical of open country where it sits on low, often conspicuous perches, scanning for suitable prey, which includes insects, such as grasshoppers and beetles, lizards, frogs, small rodents, and even other small birds. 

Since shrikes lack the gripping talons of true raptors, they have devised a strategy to make do with what they have: shrikes are well-known for impaling their prey on thorns and barbed wire, or wedging it into crevices, to hold it conveniently in place.  Like raptors, the actual killing blow is delivered by the shrike's pointed beak to the base of the neck of its prey. 

According to Cornell's All About Birds, the Loggerhead Shrike is capable of carrying prey equal to its own mass, by holding it either in its feet or beak.

This particular Loggerhead Shrike didn't display any interesting behavior other than perching and scanning, but I was still happy to spot this beautiful bird of California's grasslands.

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