The loggerhead shrike, aka the Butcher from Louisiana is a ghoulish bird that arrays its prey on thorns
Prairies, pastures and agricultural fields in the southern regions of Alberta, Saskatchewan, Manitoba and Ontario
Endangered in Ontario, threatened in Western Canada
WHY SO SPECIAL
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.