The songbird that butchers its victims

Great Greay Shrike (Lanius excubitor), perched on branch, whith impaled mouse, Lower Saxony, Germany

There is one songbird that sports a black bandit mask and has a sinister reputation – the great grey shrike.

While it may still sing sweetly, this pint-sized predator’s grisly dining technique has earnt it the moniker “butcher bird”.

It is an expert hunter but in order to be able to feed, it impales its victims of small animals and birds on the long thorns of trees and bushes, or even on barbed wire, where it can then disembowel them by pulling with its sturdy, sharply hooked bill.

Like a scene straight from a horror film, the great grey shrike leaves these macabre decorations hanging out of reach from most potential thieves, meaning they can be snacked on later.

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photo: Duncan Usher / Alamy


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