In a reply to JAG, copied below, Philip Veerman
inadvertently assists in perpetuating what I regard as one of the
greatest myths in Australian ornithology.
That Butcherbirds impale their
At least I have found no evidence of this in Grey
Butcherbird which I have observed in detail over many years. To the contrary,
even when storing food in their 'larder' as it has been called, in trees with
numerous spikes or thorns, they choose not to impale, instead wedging it between
the spikes or in clefts, never securing it on a spike as do the Lanius
Convinced of the above, the late and great Graham
Pizzey raised the matter with me and we exchanged some correspondence. I like to
think that partly as a consequence of that exchange, on page 542 of the Pizzey
& Knight Field Guide he wrote the following.
"Larger victims are wedged into a fork (or an angle
in wires of a fence or clothes-hoist) for purchase to tear against. But
prey is seldom if ever impaled on thorns".
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This seems like a typical thing for a
butcherbird. There is nothing new or astounding about it. More to the point,
other things don't do this. That is where the name comes from, hanging meat
on hooks, like a butcher. The shrikes of northern hemisphere do the same.
The thing is, they don't have strong feet like hawks have, so they need to
secure prey on something, while they tear it up.