Oh, the strange things I find to be beautiful. These insects were impaled so by a Loggerhead Shrike. The birds have this habit due to several factors. First, they can save food for later. One article I read even implied that the insects “cured” or that poisons in an insect might dissipate after a bit of time. So, there is the food aspect. Another theory goes that the males can attract mates more readily if they have established an impressive stockpile of carcasses. Another theory, says that the impaled creatures (ranging in size from bees to small rodents) are a large warning sign telling other shrikes to stay out of the territory. Whatever the reason, or the many reasons, there were dozens of these little insects impaled on the barbed wire fence this fall near where I was standing looking at cows. Then, just yesterday, Pitts pointed out the bird to me. It was lovely, in stark black and white. It was sitting on the fence line calling. I was caught up with its beauty, but it flew off quickly and I didn’t even try to take a photo. It was just a moment experienced. It reminded me, however, to post a few photos of the insects.
Yes, it is awful looking. A bit macabre.
But it is also amazing. It is so human, too. I couldn’t help but have thoughts about the Middle Ages, or hell, even today, and the ways that some people flaunt their gruesome feats. Heads on stakes, and the like. The birds teach their young the art of impaling early on. There is no judgment here. This is not cruelty for the sake of cruelty. Apparently the impaling is not always the death blow. The birds use their sharp beaks to snap necks or kill prey. But they don’t have the talons of raptors, just regular little song bird feet, it seems. So the spines of a cactus or a barb on a wire give them purchase to tear apart their dinner, or a handy place to store it, or decorate with it. Business as usual. I have a pheasant stuffed by the television at the ranch. That’s decorating with kill, too.
Nature is quite astounding. But not exactly shocking.
Shrikes are often referred to as butcher birds.[Click on a photo to view a larger image]