Rich Ditch's Photography Blog

February 8, 2011

Shrike with a snack

Filed under: behavior, Birds, favorite places, Gilbert Water Ranch — richditch @ 8:10 pm
Loggerhead Shrike

Loggerhead Shrike

I’ve been fascinated by shrikes since I saw my first one many years ago in Houston, TX (December 3, 1980). Since then I’ve seen lots of Loggerhead Shrikes (in TX, NJ, FL, AZ, NM, and CA) and a much smaller number if Northern Shrikes (NJ, NY, NM, and AZ). Even my vanity plate in NJ and here in AZ has read SHRIKE.

Shrikes are technically songbirds, even though their “song” is little more than a few harsh notes. But they are songbirds that live the lives of hawks, catching live prey and dispatching it with a few strategic bites with their powerful hooked beaks. Typical prey consists of large insects, snakes and lizards, small rodents, and small birds.

Since they don’t have the powerful talons of true hawks they often resort to impaling captured prey on thorn bushes (or barbed wire) so they can pull it apart with their beaks. That’s what’s going on in the top image: a Loggerhead Shrike has impaled a mouse or vole on a mesquite thorn and is pulling it into small pieces to swallow.

Loggerhead Shrike

Loggerhead Shrike

In the second image we get a better view of “lunch” clearly showing the rodent’s tail.

Loggerhead Shrike

Loggerhead Shrike

The final image shows just the tip of the tail, or perhaps a tiny foot, sticking out of the beak.

January 2, 2011, Gilbert Water Ranch. Nikon D200, Nikkor 300/2.8 AF-S plus TC20E (2x) converter, Gitzo 1325 tripod with gimbal head. ISO 400, 1/400th second at f/11.



  1. Just an excellent series of photos Rich. A behavior that’s very difficult to capture at all – much less this cleanly. The few times I’ve managed images of this behavior the shrike was in a jumble of branches.

    Comment by rondudley — February 9, 2011 @ 4:12 am

  2. Wonderful and interesting series of images. I have seen them go after insects at Sweetwater but did not know they would eat voles or mice.

    Comment by Jim Hackley — February 16, 2011 @ 2:19 pm

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