Shrikes (like this Grey-backed Fiscal) are little wannabe raptors. They are quick and intense, with the requisite taste for lizards, snakes, and fledglings, but they’ve been evolutionarily deprived of the proper tools… so they improvise. Sure their bill is a slightly hooked which helps in nipping little chunks off their prey… but their talons need some help.
Luckily they live in acacia country where thorns abound. Who needs talons when you can skewer your prey to your heart’s content, leave it to sit for awhile so the skin loosens up in the heat, then eat your fill. No wonder they’ve earned the moniker “butcher bird.”
This one was calling to its family group as they wandered through the thorns searching for tidbits. The Long-tailed Fiscal pictured below has found a grasshopper and keeps a firm grip on both ends as it finds the nearest thorn laden bush.
Tanzania’s more commonly seen shrikes are the Common Fiscal, Long-tailed Fiscal, Grey-backed Fiscal, the beautiful dark Magpie Shrike, and the Northern White-crowned Shrike (seen in the series below).
From what I witnessed it seems insects make up a large part of their diet. Smaller ones are eaten quickly but larger ones take a little time to process.
Removing the legs is a good start but eventually this bird left with a legless insect, presumably to find a bush full of makeshift talons.
Next time we will explore the wonderful world of Weavers, ebullient artisans of the bird world.
CLICK HERE to revisit part one “Super Starlings.”
Amazing photos of the Shrikes!
Engrossing! Your purity of attention to bird makes images as though the shrike photographed itself. Warmhearted explanatory captions add to the experience. Hmmmm, the word “fiscal” has an exciting other life….
I disagree with one of your sentences: it should actually read “Raptors are large wannabe Shrikes”. Great post! Cheers 🙂
Fascinating story and great closeup photos. Thanks!
This looks a bit like the Phasmids we get here sometimes-large green grasshopper.