Pretty gruesome stuff, but nature isn't always very pretty...
June 22, 2010 by admin
Lanius, the typical shrikes, are a genus of passerine birds in the shrike family. The majority of the family’s species are placed in this genus. African species are known as fiscals. That name comes from the Afrikaans word fiskaal (“public official”, especially a hangman), because they hang their prey on thorns for storage.
Lanius shrikes are birds of open habitats typically seen perched upright on a prominent perch like a treetop or a telegraph pole. They sally out for prey, taken in flight or the ground. These species primarily take large insects, but will also take small birds, reptiles and mammals. For large northern species such as the Great Grey, the majority of the prey will be vertebrates, especially in winter.
Despite their diet, these are not true birds of prey, and lack the strong talons of the raptors. Though they use their feet to hold smaller insects, larger prey items are impaled upon a sharp point, such as a thorn or the barbs of barbed wire. Thus secured they can be ripped open with the hooked bill.
The sexes of most species are distinguishable, the male invariably being the brighter bird where there is a difference.
There are some natural groupings within the genus, such as the seven African fiscals, the large grey species and the Eurasian brown-backed species. In the last group in particular, it has been difficult to define species’ boundaries, and in the past several of these shrike have been lumped as conspecific.