Interesting facts about shrikes

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We found 14 interesting facts about shrikes

Very cruel birds

These small birds, comparable in size to a sparrow or blackbird, have a notorious reputation as the most violent birds in the world. They are also called the Hannibal Lecter of birds. They earned this name because of their eating habits. Their menu includes not only insects, mammals, amphibians and reptiles, but they also love birds. But they do not eat the food they get without leaving the house, but prick it on thorns, barbed wire or any thorn. The places where shrikes feed may seem creepy to the person who stumbles upon them, but in nature it is not a strange phenomenon.


Shrikes are birds from the order Passeriformes, belonging to the family Laniidae.

This family includes 34 species of four genera: Lanius, Corvinella, Eurocephalus, Urolestes.


The most numerous genus is Lanius, its name comes from the Latin word for “butcher”.

Shrikes are also sometimes called butcher birds due to their feeding habits. The common English name for shrikes, shrike, comes from the Old English scrīc and refers to the high-pitched sound the bird makes.


Shrikes are found primarily in Eurasia and Africa.

One species lives New Guinea, two species are found in North America (pygmy shrike and northern shrike). Shrikes are not found in South America or Australia.

Currently, three species of shrikes breed in Poland: goose, you're grumbling i black-faced. Until recently, the red-headed shrike also nested. Exceptional representatives are the desert shrike and the Mediterranean shrike.


Shrikes inhabit open habitats, especially steppes and savannas.

Some species live in forests and are rarely found in open habitats. Some species breed in northern latitudes in the summer and then migrate to warmer habitats.

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Shrikes are medium-sized birds with gray, brown or black and white plumage, sometimes with rust-colored spots.

The length of most species is from 16 to 25 cm, only the genus Corvinella with very elongated tail feathers can reach a length of up to 50 cm.

Their beaks are strong and curved at the end, like those of birds of prey, reflecting their carnivorous nature. The beak ends with a sharp protrusion, the so-called “tooth”. They have short, rounded wings and a stepped tail. The voice they produce is shrill.


In various publications, shrikes are often called the Hannibal Lecter of birds or the most violent bird in the world.

These birds feed on rodents, birds, reptiles, amphibians and large insects. They can hunt, for example, a blackbird or a young rat.

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Shrikes kill vertebrates by grabbing or piercing the neck with their beaks and violently shaking the prey.

Their practice of impaling prey on spines also serves as an adaptation for eating toxic insects, such as the grasshopper Romalea microptera. The bird waits 1-2 days for the toxins in the grasshopper to break down before eating it.


Three species of shrikes breed in Poland: the black-fronted shrike, the red-rumped shrike and the great shrike.

The Black-fronted Shrike (Lanius major) is found in the eastern part of the country, but the last confirmed breeding in Poland took place in 2010. In the past it was a fairly widespread bird, in the XNUMXth century it inhabited most of the lowland part of Poland, but since the beginning of the XNUMXth century the population has declined.

In the 80s the population was estimated at about 100 pairs, but in 2008-2012 it was only 1-3 pairs.


The Black-fronted Shrike is a bird with an erect body and a long tail.

On its head it has a wide black mask, which in adults covers the forehead (the great-tailed shrike has only a black stripe under the eyes with a white border at the top, reaching the forehead). The body and head are gray-blue.

There is a white mirror on the wing and white areas on the tail. She is smaller than a great magpie, but sings louder than him. It attracts victims with various screeching sounds, like magpies, making them while flying and hovering in the air.


The black-fronted shrike breeds once a year, at the end of May and in June.

The nest is built in the crown of a tall tree (usually about 10 m above the ground), in the fork of a branch, not far from the trunk, often on poplars or fruit trees.

The characteristic elements of this bird's nest, in addition to roots, twigs, thick blades of grass and feathers, are numerous large green plants woven into its central part.


In Poland, the black-fronted shrike is a strictly protected species.

In the Red Book of Birds of Poland it is classified as endangered, probably extinct.


The common shrike (Lanius collurio) is the most numerous shrike in Poland.

It is about the size of a sparrow or blackbird, with a slimmer figure. Has obvious sexual dimorphism. The male has a black mask around his eyes.

It is most common in Western Pomerania and the Lower Oder Valley, although it can be found throughout the country. Its habitat is sunny, open, dry areas with thorny bushes, as well as heathlands, peat bogs and all kinds of thickets.


Shrikes are diurnal birds.

They always sit motionless in an upright position. They are difficult to observe. They often sit on wires, poles or the tops of bushes, from where they look out for prey. A nervous bird shakes and beats its tail.

The male often imitates the calls of other birds, most often geese, hence the species name of this shrike.

Compared to their small size, shrikes can catch surprisingly large prey - they can hunt, for example, a frog.

In Poland, this species is under strict species protection, and in the Red Book of Birds of Poland it is classified as a species of least concern (like the great magpie).


The Great Gray Shrike is the largest shrike in Poland.

Great spotted hawks are found throughout the country. They prefer agricultural areas with patches of native vegetation. There is no sexual dimorphism in plumage. The typical call of a great magpie is a low, long whistle.

The main diet of piebalds consists of voles and insects. If there is a shortage of voles in food, they replace them with other mammals or birds (beetles, tits, pipits, buntings, sparrows, larks and finches), less often - birds the size of the largest piebald; for example, blackbirds. Unlike shrikes, great magpies do not eat their chicks.

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