Appearance There are 8 Shrikes and 6 Fiscals regularly found in Kenya. Shrikes and Fiscals have features that overlap (e.g. some of each sub-species have masks and some don't). Most ornithologists refer to the group simply as Shrikes, which I will. They are all predatory birds, with a 'nail' at the end of the short bill, to rip prey apart. Their legs and feet are strong, with sharp claws. They have large, rounded heads, in comparison to the small body and narrow tails, some of which are fairly lengthy. They are similarly coloured birds, utilising blacks, whites, greys and some rufous. Sexes are similar, except many Fiscal females have a patch of chestnut on the side.
Habits Most Shrikes are solitary birds, others gather in noisy groups, only a few of which have any musical notes. They nest in bushes and trees, making a large-ish cup-shaped nest from mostly grass and a few twigs. Shrikes are very territorial and will chase other birds away, particularly from nests. They perch out in the open, on trees or bushes, waiting to pounce on prey in the grass below.
Diet Shrikes eat mostly insects and small vertebrates. Often, they impale the larger of their catch on the thorn of an Acacia or similar spike. This holds the prey, while they tear chunks off to eat. They will sometimes leave part of their meal, returning to it later. Some Shrikes take larger grasshoppers, beetles, frogs, lizards and mice. Occasionally, fledgling birds, up to the same size as the Shrike are also taken.
Resident Most Shrikes are residents of Kenya, but 5 are palearctic migrants. They generally prefer bushed grassland areas or open woodlands. Between them, the family inhabit the majority of Kenya. Some species are rarely seen and live in 'pockets' of the country.
Extra Shrike Facts Shrikes are also known as "butcher birds" because of the way they impale their food and make it into bite-sized pieces.
Photographs Photographed at Kenya's Nairobi NP & Olare Orok Conservancy.