Saturday, July 9, 2011


Brown Shrike by Sylvia Ramos

     There are two kinds of shrikes found in the village, the Long-tailed Shrike (Lanius schach) and the Brown Shrike (Lanius cristatus). Shrikes are a familiar sight to many villagers. They are known in Pilipino as "tarat". They are bold and striking-looking birds that are often seen perched arrogantly on an exposed branch or perch, as if surveying their own little kingdom. Shrikes are also known as butcher birds (different from butcherbird, another type of bird) because they are expert hunters with an unusual eating habit. Shrikes hunt even when they are full. Then, they save their food to eat later by impaling it on a sharp thorn or the barb of barbed wire. They drive their catch powerfully into the thorn or barbed wire until the tip of the thorn or barb shows through. Shrikes usually prey on insects. But, they are also known to prey on frogs, lizards, rodents, and even other birds!

    Shrikes look like little hawks. They have a powerful, raptor-like, hooked bill and sharp claws for holding down their prey. The Long-tailed Shrike has a black head, grey back bordered in cinnamon, long black tail, white underparts and cinnamon under the tail and at the flanks or the sides of the lower torso. The Brown Shrike looks similar to a Long-tailed Shrike except that it has a grey forehead, greyish-brown head, golden-buff breast and belly, and a shorter tail.

    Long-tailed Shrikes are resident birds and Brown Shrikes are migrants. Being a resident means that Long-tailed Shrikes live and breed in the Philippines the whole year round. They are also found in other countries. Their range extends from Iran to India, China, Taiwan, and Southeast Asia to New Guinea. Birds that breed and live exclusively in the Philippines are called Philippine endemics. Being a migrant means that Brown Shrikes breed in northern Asia and winter in the Philippines. It is amazing to think that the Brown Shrikes in the village flew all the way from China to feed in the gardens of Ayala Alabang.
You can see more pictures of the Brown Shrike and Long Tailed Shrike on my website of Philippine birds.

No comments:

Post a Comment