Shrike

The big family which the Shrike is made up of three genera, of which the "Lanius"  is the largest genus. This name itself in Latin, is the word for "Butcher" giving some background as to the behavior of this bird as a Butcherbird. Most Shrikes are of the Eurasian and African origin.

They choose open habitats with the branches of low scrubs offering viewpoints where they could perch. Hence flat grasslands is out, but in the case of those absolutely flat rice fields where both Brown and Tiger Shrikes are seen, there were enough stakes driven into the ground by the famers where the birds could choose as their look out post.

Next, Shrikes are territorial birds. Here in Malaysia, their "space" is not for breeding but for feeding, hence the area they reserved for themselves could be much smaller. Being territorial is one reason for adopting that very conspicuous presence in an open area. For example, 1] the vantage point to watch for prey passing by and 2] to advertise their claim of the territory. Shrike having fixed habits of returning to the same place in their migration also make attempt to be in position early to establish their territory.

In world wide there are 30 species of Shrikes and in South-east Asia we get to only 6 species. Here in Malaysia, we get to see the 3 species. Of which variations from the Brown Shrikes could also have passed by our area.

The presence of these birds in our area would be announced by their calls especially that of the Brown & Tiger Shrikes and which are heard rather often. Below are the 3 species that we see in Malaysia.

 

  1. Brown Shrike  
       
  2. Long-tailed Shrike

 

 
       
  3. Tiger Shrike

 

 
       

Shrikes spend more time catching insect such as Beetles, Grasshoppers and Crickets then small vertebrates like Lizard and small frogs. Then not forgetting that their hooked beak speaks of the basic predatory nature. The prey they seek are usually small and can be taken to a feeding site with their beak. Unlike raptors who are blessed with powerful feet, those for the Shrikes are not strong enough for gripping and tearing. It is so often mention that Shrikes have to impale the captured prey on a thorn or sharp object, for them to tear the prey into small pieces. But not really, large chunk of food could be placed at the fork of a branch for support while the beak in the same way could slowly divide into small portions for swallowing.

 

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