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Long-tailed Shrike impales lizard

on 11th January 2010

In early January 2010, Kennie Pan a.k.a. knpan observed an interesting behaviour of a Long-tailed Shrike (Lanius schach) in Singapore. The bird suddenly flew to a grassy area and caught a lizard. It brought the prey back to a thorny palm where it impaled it on a long, sharp spine (above). Then the shrike attacked the carcass (below), bringing it back to its chicks in the nearby nest.

The Long-tailed Shrike is a common resident in Singapore. Although a songbird, it behaves like a raptor when hunting. As with other shrikes, it has the habit of impaling preys on sharp thorns, thus they are commonly known as ‘butcher birds’.

The bill of the shrike is short and sharp, hooked at the tip. This Long-tailed Shrike shrike has a ‘cross bill’ – probably a birth defect, according to ornithologist Wang Luan Keng (left). Check out an earlier post on deformed bill in the Oriental Pied Hornbill (Anthracoceros albirostris) and other species HERE to understand this unusual condition.

The diet of these shrikes consists of large insects and small vertebrates that include songbirds, reptiles, rodents and even mammals. Although they generally capture small preys, there were instances when they caught and kill animals up to five times as large as their own body size. Like raptors, owls and a few other birds, shrikes cast pellets consisting of indigestible parts of the prey like bones, fur, skin and feathers.

Three years ago we posted a Tiger Shrike (Lanius tigrinus) dismantaling a scarab beetle.

We also mentioned that there had not been any local report of a shrike capturing a vertebrate prey or a photograph of a prey impaled by the bird. Thanks to Kennie we now have photographic evidence of the Long-tailed Shrike impaling its prey.

This post is a cooperative effort between NaturePixels.org and BESG to bring the study of bird behaviour through photography to a wider audience.

If you like this post please tap on the Like button at the left bottom of page. Any views and opinions expressed in this article are solely those of the authors/contributors, and are not endorsed by the Lee Kong Chian Natural History Museum (LKCNHM, NUS) or its affiliated institutions. Readers are encouraged to use their discretion before making any decisions or judgements based on the information presented.

YC Wee

Dr Wee played a significant role as a green advocate in Singapore through his extensive involvement in various organizations and committees: as Secretary and Chairman for the Malayan Nature Society (Singapore Branch), and with the Nature Society (Singapore) as founding President (1978-1995). He has also served in the Nature Reserve Board (1987-1989), Nature Reserves Committee (1990-1996), National Council on the Environment/Singapore Environment Council (1992-1996), Work-Group on Nature Conservation (1992) and Inter-Varsity Council on the Environment (1995-1997). He is Patron of the Singapore Gardening Society and was appointed Honorary Museum Associate of the Lee Kong Chian Natural History Museum (LKCNHM) in 2012. In 2005, Dr Wee started the Bird Ecology Study Group. With more than 6,000 entries, the website has become a valuable resource consulted by students, birdwatchers and researchers locally and internationally. The views and opinions expressed in this article are his own, and do not represent those of LKCNHM, the National University of Singapore or its affiliated institutions.

Other posts by YC Wee

16 Responses

  1. Hello,

    In 2003 in Ipoh, Malaysia, Laurence Poh photographed a Long-tailed Shrike larder – including one frog that had been impaled.

  2. My question for the image showing the bird having a cross-bill: is this cross bill observation consistent throughout the entire event or just momentarily, say perhaps after some preening or beak cleaing activity? it may not necessarily be a “birth defect” since picture only capture a moment in time (although as judged from the image the tip of its beak does exhibit some unusual curvature)

  3. Hi Jeff,

    I have videos of the LTS adult and this cross bill does not occur all the time, i think maybe just some mouth misplacment . If it was a birth defect it will have been permanent.

    Kennie

  4. Excellent observation. Just wonder how a properly aligned beak looks like given the unusual state prior mentioned? I think this will help to clear up my misconception that a deformed beak would not close properly or is always cross. thx

  5. Hi, here are the videos. I am unable to upload to youtube as it is very very slow uploading process there, so i uploaded to my facebook account, which was much faster, YC, u are in my friends list, i think no problem viewing it for u.

    Here are the links videos of birds so far i took.
    Long Tail Shrike nest:
    http://www.facebook.com/video/video.php?v=240074761598
    LTS Nest parent with chicks (About 2 days later):
    http://www.facebook.com/video/video.php?v=241900191598
    Hodgson Hawk Cuckoo:
    http://www.facebook.com/video/video.php?v=220688721598
    Dark Sided Flycatcher :
    http://www.facebook.com/video/video.php?v=212022696598
    Black Backed KingFisher Guirgating & Behaviour:
    http://www.facebook.com/video/video.php?v=190807011598
    Black Backed Kingfisher Flapping Wings (I am not sure why it flaps b4 it flies off the branch):
    http://www.facebook.com/video/video.php?v=190270011598

  6. The cross bill could be also be somewhat caused by camera perspective as it’s not at the same angle as the other photos. The shrikes here have adapted to western agriculture and impale their grasshoppers on the barb wire fencing.

  7. BESG congratulates Kennie Pan for winning the grand prize of a recent local biodiversity photographic competition. His photo of the Long-tailed Shrike tearing a lizard after impaling it on a sharp palm spine won him top spot among more than 2,200 entries from 725 participants. His is a rare image that local birdwatchers have seldom, if at all, seen. Well done, Kennie.

    Check out his webpage: http://kenniepan.com/?p=354

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