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The 'Butcher bird's' butchery! The Common Fiscal is also known as the &#039;Butcher bird&#039; after its habit of impaling its prey onto the thorns of an acacia tree. Today I came across this, a small acacia decorated with the corpses of the days catch. I have never seen anything quite like it. Had the bird not been in the tree along with the vole I probably would never have noticed.<br />
Today&#039;s menu included a vole, several grasshoppers in varying stages of dying and decomposing (yes, one was still alive), a caterpillar (I think) and a beetle.  Gross, but fascinating! Butcher bird,Fall,Feeding,Geotagged,Lanius collaris,South Africa,Southern Fiscal,Spring,birds,predators,prey,south africa Click/tap to enlarge Promoted

The 'Butcher bird's' butchery!

The Common Fiscal is also known as the 'Butcher bird' after its habit of impaling its prey onto the thorns of an acacia tree. Today I came across this, a small acacia decorated with the corpses of the days catch. I have never seen anything quite like it. Had the bird not been in the tree along with the vole I probably would never have noticed.
Today's menu included a vole, several grasshoppers in varying stages of dying and decomposing (yes, one was still alive), a caterpillar (I think) and a beetle. Gross, but fascinating!

    comments (8)

  1. Coming from a country of silly cheery song birds, I recently saw a first photo of one such bird doing this here in the Netherlands, and I was totally shocked. I would expect it in other countries, not here. Brutal as it may be, I totally love the collage you made, such a rich and educational piece! Posted 3 years ago
    1. Thank you Ferdy! No, not something you would expect in Europe but I believe quite widespread. Horrible! Posted 3 years ago
  2. Fascinating collection Clare. An entirely different family (Artamidae vs. Laniidae) act as butchers in Australia. The common evolutionary element might be the spiny plants like acacia. It almost makes one expect to find little price tags. :) Posted 3 years ago
    1. Thanks Mark, it is interesting that there are other butchers in the bird world, made me laugh..little price tags...$ per kilo ha ha. Posted 3 years ago
  3. That's pretty amazing. Out here shrikes have adapted and will impale their catches on barbed wire fences, but I've never seen a collection quite like that! Posted 3 years ago
    1. Amazing how well wildlife can adapt to human encroachment. I have never actually seen something like this apart from finding a decomposed bat on a thorn in Namibia, in my ignorance I thought the bat had somehow managed to impale itself! Now out of morbid curiosity I inspect this little tree every day but alas, I think the bird considers me a threat or a potential thief and is taking its prey elsewhere. Posted 3 years ago
  4. Great photo. When I heard about the tendency for shrikes to do this (sometimes called creating a "larder") I really wanted to see one. Although we have shrikes locally here in Germany, and the most common one is called Nine-Killer (Neuntöter) because of this behavior (as if it kills nine things before it eats one), I never found a larder. I saw my first one in South Africa in Hluhluwe Park, but didn't have a camera. Posted one year ago
    1. It is really quite bizarre isn't it. I have never heard of a butchery before I saw this. I was in Namibia years ago and saw a dead bat skewered onto a long spike and I though it had just managed to impale itself! Posted one year ago

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The Southern Fiscal is a member of the shrike family found through most of Sub-Saharan Africa. It is also sometimes named Jackie Hangman or Butcher Bird due to its habit of impaling its prey on acacia thorns to store the food for later consumption. It was previously lumped together with the Northern Fiscal . Together they were known as the Common Fiscal.

Similar species: Passerines
Species identified by Claire Hamilton
View Claire Hamilton's profile

By Claire Hamilton

All rights reserved
Uploaded Apr 8, 2016. Captured Apr 8, 2016 17:12 in Unnamed Road, South Africa.
  • Canon EOS 7D
  • f/6.3
  • 1/250s
  • ISO160
  • 100mm