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only once

I have only seen this bird once, and that was thanks to the birding guide I was with; Matthew Kwan. (see Project CROW on FB: they are "dedicated in providing tailor-made nature activities such as guided walks and workshops"). This is of course the Brown Shrike, Lanius cristatus.

This is quite a small bird, with a slender black mask and rufous-brown rump and tail. Averages stronger-billed in appearance than other medium-sized “brownish” shrikes....see tomorrow for comparison.

So why do they have those masks of dark feathers around the eyes, a wrap-around sunglasses look? Well this is said to be similar to those dark patches under players’ eyes in baseball...... It’s called eye black. Players use it to reduce glare from the sun or stadium lights.

Many birds have evolved areas of dark feathers across their eyes, especially if they hunt from exposed perches in the bright sunlight. Some scientists think the markings help disguise where the bird is looking, helping to catch prey off-guard. It certainly makes them difficult to photograph, as what do you expose for? Well of course those tricky dicky scientists had to test this theory, and believe it or not (well i read this online) scientists in Israel temporarily “unmasked” shrikes: the researchers whitened the black feathers. I can just see the grant submission now.....hmmmmm. The results....the unmasked birds altered their normal hunting angle, facing away from the sun’s glare instead of into it and they recorded success in catching prey dropped.

The researchers think the shrikes that hunt facing into the glare are less easily detected because they don’t cast a shadow in the direction of their prey.


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