To: "Mike Carter" <>, "birding aus" <>
Subject: PG's Help needed. PERPETUATING the great BUTCHERBIRD MYTH
From: "Philip A. Veerman" <>
Date: Mon, 30 Jun 2003 17:57:28 +1000
Thanks Mike for your clarification on the issue. I was not really suggesting any impaling of food. So Mike is right that any such suggestion was inadvertent. I have seen Grey Butcherbird put prey into a wedge in twigs but I have not seen them impaling it. I wasn't actually thinking of impaling (note I wrote "hanging"). All I was trying to do was point out to John Gamblin that the birds sticking prey onto a clothes peg on a clothes line is really just an extension of natural behaviour and not something as astounding as he was suggesting. I hadn't really thought of a difference between our birds and shrikes (although the reason they do it is the same). Is this really "one of the greatest myths in Australian ornithology"? ps I have never worked as a butcher.
-----Original Message-----
From: Mike Carter <>
To: Philip A. Veerman <>; BIRDING-AUS <>
Cc: Jamie Matthew <>
Date: Monday, 30 June 2003 11:15
Subject: Re: [BIRDING-AUS] PG's Help needed. PERPETUATING the great BUTCHERBIRD MYTH

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 prey.
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 Shrikes.
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".
Mike Carter
30 Canadian Bay Road
Mt Eliza    VIC     3930
Ph:  (03) 9787 7136
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.
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