Out There

Canadian Wildlife - - NEWS - Text and Pho­tog­ra­phy by Wayne Lynch

The log­ger­head shrike, aka the Butcher from Louisiana is a ghoul­ish bird that ar­rays its prey on thorns


La­nius lu­dovi­cianus


Prairies, pas­tures and agri­cul­tural fields in the south­ern re­gions of Al­berta, Saskatchew­an, Man­i­toba and On­tario


En­dan­gered in On­tario, threat­ened in West­ern Canada


Stores sur­plus prey on thorns and barbed wires


The sci­en­tific name for the log­ger­head shrike, La­nius lu­dovi­cianus, means the butcher from Louisiana. The Louisiana part of its name iden­ti­fies the ori­gin of the first spec­i­men de­scribed by science, but why is the bird called a butcher? It turns out that male shrikes com­monly im­pale mul­ti­ple prey items in the same bush or along the same stretch of barbed-wire fence so that the area re­sem­bles a butcher shop. In one study, a re­searcher found a shrike larder with 28 dif­fer­ent prey items in it. In Canada, prey in­cludes song­birds, small ro­dents, grasshop­pers, bee­tles, spi­ders and crick­ets. The male shrike stocks his larder mainly dur­ing the spring nest­ing sea­son as a con­spic­u­ous dis­play of his wealth and skill. A well-stocked larder ad­ver­tises not only the qual­ity of a male’s ter­ri­tory but also his pro­fi­ciency as a hunter and provider, at­tributes at­trac­tive to fe­males look­ing for a mate. A male with a large larder at­tracts a mate sooner than his neigh­bours. When re­searchers stripped the larders of sev­eral males, they re­mained bach­e­lors and even­tu­ally aban­doned their ter­ri­to­ries.

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