The Perching Bird of Prey

     Most people tend to think of the long, drawn out “keeeeer” of the Red-Tailed Hawk, or the great majesty of the Bald Eagle when they hear about birds of prey.  It is true that birds of prey have powerful talons and beaks to help them kill and tear apart their prey when they eat. These birds are given these talons and beaks so that they can eat meat.  Thus, other songbirds and other types of birds do not eat meat.

  The Loggerhead Shrike is a mockingbird-sized perching bird that lives throughout much of the US.  This bird may be classified as a perching bird (passerine) but it does consume meats such as insects, mice, and small birds. The only problem with this bird’s eating habits are the fact that it has no talons. That obstacle does not prevent the Loggerhead Shrike from enjoying meat, however. Just as a vulture has a sharp, decurved bill that it uses to rip up its meat, this shrike has a sharp, slightly downward-curving upper mandible.  This is used by the shrike to kill its prey. It then carries its prey and skewers it on sharp thorns or barbed wire.  From there, it can rip apart and consume its meat with ease.  
  I just saw this bird today, and while it is no Bald Eagle, it still has some pride that it shows as it bravely sat on a plant watching me take pictures of it early this morning at the Savannah National Wildlife Refuge.  The Loggerhead Shrike can be confused with the Northern Mockingbird from afar, but if you are ever in the predicament where you are trying to decide which bird it is, look for a black streak on the side of its face and down its wings and tail.  The power and majesty of the Loggerhead Shrike may pale in comparison to the Harpy Eagle with its 5 inch long talons, but I have to give the little fellas some respect for trying so hard to get that one food they crave!