Monday, August 22, 2011

Loggerhead Shrike

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Loggerhead Shrike at Viera Wetlands
(Notice the stick through the frog's head)
Loggerhead Shrikes [gallery] are amazing birds.  If you aren't looking carefully, you might think you're looking at a Mockingbird, but Loggerhead Shrikes have a black mask around the eyes, and they have black, hooked beaks, like a hawk would have.  I think these are my favorite birds.  They hunt like hawks do--they eat insects, lizards and other small animals--but they do not simply hunt, kill and eat their prey.  They usually impale their prey on thorns or barbed wire fences.


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Loggerhead Shrike at Viera Wetlands

There are a few theories as to why they behave this way: 1) since they do not have talons like hawks, they impale their prey so they can hold it still while they eat, 2) it's an adaptation allwoing them to degrade toxins in the lubber grasshoppers they eat, and 3) they are storing their food for later use, or some combination of the three.  Either way, the behavior is unique among perching birds.  The photograph above suggests to me that, at least some times, they impale their prey to store food.  It looks to me like he impaled the lizard and then went back to it and removed it to eat later.

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Loggerhead Shrike at Viera Wetlands
I see these birds most frequently at Viera Wetlands and Merritt Island, Blackpoint Dr. But I've also seen them while driving perched on powerlines and barbed wire fences.  So keep your eye out, and you may just see one on your way into work.

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Loggerhead Shrike on Blackpoint Dr.
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Loggerhead Shrike on Blackpoint Dr.
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Juvenile Loggerhead Shrike at Viera Wetlands
(Notice the mangled right foot)

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