This Tiny, Bloodthirsty Bird Impales Its Prey With Thorns

Partly for convenience, and partly because the chicks dig it.
Don't cross this shrike.
Don't cross this shrike.
Rebecca R Jackrel via Getty Images

Sometimes the cutest ones are the most brutal.

Take the shrike: It’s little. It’s a bird. Some varieties have black feathers on their faces that make them look like they have cartoon angry eyes. But the shrike is bad news if you’re one of the rodents, reptiles, insects or smaller birds that it wants to eat.

If that’s the case, the shrike might just impale you.

(Note: Some of the images below are a bit graphic.)

Wayne Lynch via Getty Images

Wired published a great educational video, which can be seen below, that pays tribute to the badass bird on Friday. We’re totally captivated by the fierce little creatures, which use spiky objects like thorns or barbed wire to skewer their prey.

There are 30 different species in the shrike family. The birds typically kill their victims before impaling them, using their bills to strike the death blow.

So what’s with all the impalement? It’s mostly a matter of practicality.

“They are perching birds with delicate feet," wildlife ecologist Carola Haas told the National Wildlife Federation. “Consequently, they can´t hold on to their food and eat it at the same time."

But it’s also because female shrikes think impaled carcasses are damn sexy. According to the NWF:

Impaled victims function not only as dinner but also as billboards that advertise the prowess of males, which skewer more prey than females. And in mating season, the body count rises along with the incidence of inedible but eye-catching objects such as ribbons and feathers.

Get it, shrike.

Beautiful Birds