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Red-backed Shrike (Lanius collurio) flight winter SA_w_044467 | by Stephen Daly
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Red-backed Shrike (Lanius collurio) flight winter SA_w_044467

The Red-backed Shrike inhabits low thorny scrub with small and medium sized trees in semi-open landscapes, often near water. It's name derives from this species impaling its prey on thorns or barbed-wire spikes to keep them in its 'larder'.

 

People used to mistakenly believe that it always impaled nine insects before eating one! Hence in Europe, the Germanic name Neuntöter (Nine killer) is used. Butcher bird is also a common name.

 

Red-backed Shrikes and other shrike species have evolved with exceptional eyesight and are considered by some as 'mini' raptors. They also have sharp talons for holding their prey.

 

*Ornithologists have long known that shrikes impale their prey, no one knew for certain how these songbirds managed to catch and kill relatively large vertebrates. A new analysis of high-speed video footage in the US with Loggerhead Shrikes finally reveals the answer: They grasp mice by the neck with their pointed beak, pinch the spinal cord to induce paralysis, and then vigorously shake their prey with enough force to break its neck.

 

*https://royalsocietypublishing.org/doi/full/10.1098/rsbl.2018.0321

 

The adult male has pale grey crown, nape, rump and uppertail-coverts, and chestnut mantle, back and scapulars. The upperwing is blackish with chestnut-edged feathers. There is sometimes a small, white wing patch at primaries’ bases.

 

The tail is black but the central pair of rectrices has white base, whereas the outer pairs show white outer webs. The black terminal bands on other tail feathers form an inverted T visible in flight.

 

On the underparts, chin and throat are white. Rest of underparts is pale salmon-pink. The undertail-coverts are white.

 

Taken in the Kruger National Park, South Africa

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Uploaded on June 9, 2020