Well, I promised a fellow blogger over at the Cedar Journal (https://thecedarjournal.com/blog/), a steady stream of bird posts in recognition of finally getting out of the pressure cooker. Probably over promised, but contrary to the great philosopher Yoda, sometimes “Try, there is”. Linda and I are starting to plan out the winter vacation. It is no secret we have spent a number of previous years birding the Texas Gulf Coast and then along the Rio Grande River. There are a number of other birding places we are considering, but hard to pass up the opportunity to get the abundance of birds down there in the tin – and Ron hasn’t ventured down there yet so any new checks allows me to claw back ground on his bird count. All that planning got me thinking there are plenty of bird shots still to post from our previous Texas trips.
Took a quick look to see what was available in the queue and found this set back from the December 2016 trek. The Loggerhead Shrike is not a new bird to the list having been featured previously back in November 2016 (link here). The Loggerhead has decided the entire southern region is a sufficient kill zone year round with some forays into the central north during breeding season to spread their reign of terror on even more victims.
Hit the jump if you want a pre-Halloween scare.
On first encounter one is often taken in by their rather stunning color pattern, the smallish stature and even the “my what large claws” you have is quickly dismissed as simply a perch aid. I have never seen one that looked dirty or having a bad feather day. Nope, cute, prim and proper, what could possibly be a reason someone would refer to their presence as terror. Truth is, behavior does not always fit the sheep’s clothing. Sometime it is a ruse to get you to look the other way.
First thing we need to do is dispense with initial impressions and take a deeper look at this natural born killer. They are careful not to reveal their weapons of violence. From time to time you can catch them with their Predator cloaking down and get a better visual of the real Shrike. Take special note of the vicious claw these evil songbirds possess. Sharp enough and long enough to impale the largest of insects, lizard or rodent. Now add to it that protrusion on the upper bill. Think that is for cuddling?
Of course not, rather death blows to the nape of their prey. According to Cornell’s website, there are a pair of protrusions referred to as “tomial teeth”. Tomium being the sharp cutting edge of a bird’s beak in this case the edge with the hooked bill. Grab onto a victim with those talons and with one swift strike to the vertebrae and you have a paralyzed rag doll to do all kinds of gruesome things to.
They say the Honey Badger “don’t take shit” from anyone. Well, I can imagine this confident predator walking up to that Badger and telling it to hold its beer and step aside while he shows it how it is done. Now, you might still be thinking what’s the big deal, we get the fact the birds gotta eat. So it might use a scary hooked bill and those claws pale in comparison to those of the larger Raptors. Besides, look how cute it is …
Words of course spoken by a top tier predator. Unfortunately, I didn’t come completely clean about their killer skills. I have not had the experience of witnessing it myself, but this bird is responsible for one of my top 5 desired target shots. As if their own implements of destruction are not enough, these Shrikes have developed tool capabilities. Have a large rodent or lizard that is bit too much to handle – simply find the nearest thorn and impale it. Want to save a tasty catch for later and not have to worry about it escaping – simply find the nearest thorn and impale it. Having trouble getting pieces small enough to consume – simply whack it repeatedly against a sharp twig until you rip it into pieces.
That’s right, my guess is their enemies refer to them as Vlad. Imagine a thorn bush or Locust tree littered with dead carcasses. Still think this species is cute!?! The Shrike dons the mask not for good, rather to hide a heartless killer from the prudes of society. I have to send Kudos to Ron who has managed to get images in the tin of the twig scenario referenced above (link here – however, don’t go there if you are squeamish). Note, I also have to admit he managed to get some stunner shots of this bird – far better than my attempts here). Instead, I give you shots of a Shrike holding a piece of straw.
Wait a minute, that isn’t a piece of straw!! Looks like a Praying Mantis has fallen victim to the bandit at the South Padre Island Bird Viewing and Nature Center (these last three came from our December 2017 trip). It seems pretty proud of its catch. My guess is it is looking for the closest thorn to display the latest trophy.
Better wrap this up before I end up giving you nightmares. Just wanted to educate you a bit on the Loggerhead just in case you were blissfully unaware there was a darker side to our feathered friend. Mental note, remind me not to stand too close to Ron when we come upon one of these – I don’t want any fallout coming my way when they decide to attack him ha!
Take it easy everyone and hope your night is going better than the Nationals at the moment.