Rich Ditch's Photography Blog

January 28, 2010

Loggerhead Shrike on thorny perch

Filed under: behavior, Birds, composition, favorite places, Gilbert Water Ranch — richditch @ 11:16 am
Loggerhead Shrike on thorny branch

Loggerhead Shrike on thorny branch

I’ve been fascinated by shrikes ever since seeing my first one (December 3, 1980, Houston, TX). Living in NJ we didn’t get to see many, but I always chased after reports of both shrike species and got to see a good percentage of the ones found there.

One of the treats of living in AZ is getting to see the Loggerhead Shrike more often. And I’ve even been lucky enough to see its close cousin the Northern Shrike twice in AZ (more often in NJ).

Shrikes are songbirds that have adopted the lifestyle of hawks as best they can. They prey on lizards and snakes, large insects, and small birds. Being high on the food chain like this they require more territory to support them and are less common on the smaller birds.

They often perch high on a tree or pole or wire so they can watch for potential prey over a large area. They’ll sometimes be attacked by smaller birds hoping they’ll leave the area. When they fly they drop lower to the ground and pull up at the end of their flight to another hgh perch.

Shrikes retain the small feet of other songbirds rather than the large talons of real raptors. They use their substantial hooked beaks to grab prey and dispatch it. Since they can’t use their feet to grasp prey and pull it apart they often impale what they’ve caught on barbed wire fences or on thorny branches, so it is no surprise to see this bird at the Gilbert Water Ranch on a branch like this.

Taken 01/20/10, Nikon D200, 300/2.8 with TC20E (2x), Gitzo tripod, ISO 400, 1/750th second at f/10, matrix meter at -1/3rd stop compensation.

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