Breckland Birder

Breckland Birder
Crossbill in Breckland, Norfolk Photo by Paul Newport

Monday, 24 February 2014

A very sad end to a Great Grey Shrike in Shropham, Norfolk.

I was recently contacted by a friend from Shropham, Richard Farrow, who said that a friend of his, Andrew Barnes, also from Shropham, had taken a picture of a dead Great Grey Shrike.
Richard kindly contacted Andrew and had the pictures sent to me, it was clearly a freshly dead Great Grey Shrike.  Further contact with Andrew revealed that the Shrike was found beneath power lines on 12th January 2014.  Given that the bird did not appear predated upon it is conceivable that it collided with overhead wires or a structure of some kind. 
Great Grey Shrike at Shropham, Norfolk.
Given its scarcity, the demise of this Great Grey Shrike is a very sad one indeed.  The bird appears to be in very good condition and I therefore feel its passing was an accidental one.

The Shrike family are one of my favourite group of birds.  These are all very smart looking birds, although not raptors, Shrikes are predatory birds which hunt smaller birds by watching from an exposed perch such as the top of a Hawthorn bush.  Once prey is in sight the Shrike will fly at speed towards its target and if taken will either consume it there and then, or store it by impaling it upon a thorn.  Several prey items may be stored on thorns, this is known as its 'larder'.  This behaviour of impaling prey has given Shrikes their alternative name of 'Butcher Bird'.
Great Grey Shrikes are birds of open country with hedgerows and scattered bushes to watch from.  The Breckland area provides ideal habitat for the Great Grey Shrike with its open heathland, large forest clearings, and wide expanses of open farmland.  Breckland usually supports one or two birds during winter months, however, their wide ranging territories means they are often hard to find.
Great Grey Shrikes are wintering birds only, they may be seen from mid October through to March or April.

Finally, I wish to thank Richard Farrow for providing me with the information on this Shrike, also, I also extend my thanks to Andrew Barnes for allowing me to use his photograph for this post. 

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