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Shrikes: Laniidae

Behavior And Reproduction

Bush-shrikes, which make up the majority of the shrike family, make neat, cup-shaped nests of grass, fine roots, and small twigs, placing them in trees or bushes and sometimes using spider webs to hold them together or snake skins to decorate them. These birds are known to be territorial and monogamous (muh-NAH-guh-mus), having only one mate. After the breeding season, which is usually begins with the start of the rainy season, female bush-shrikes usually lay two or three eggs. Helmet-shrikes, of which very little is known about their breeding behavior, are cooperative breeders, where a dominant mating pair has a number of helpers that assist in feeding and caring for their nestlings, young birds that are unable to leave the nest. These are called "family parties." Helmet-shrikes make small, cup-shaped nests from bits of bark with spider web decorations. The females lay a clutch of two to five eggs. True shrikes also use cooperative breeding. Their nests are cup shaped as well, but sometimes messily constructed. Females lay clutches of three to eight eggs, and their nestlings remain in the nest for fourteen to twenty-one days. Some of the shrike species put on courtship displays, behaviors that lead to mating, such as males and females singing duets, showy flights, and puffing out their back feathers.

Because most shrike species live in heavily vegetated areas and are sedentary, stay in the same area throughout the year, biologists know relatively little about their behavior, because they are hard to find. Bush-shrikes sometimes give their presence away to birdwatchers by their distinctive, piercing whistles and bell-like sounds, especially those that live in dense bush or tropical forests. Helmet-shrikes, like the true shrikes, are more outgoing and visible, gathering and feeding in groups of up to thirty individuals. Twenty-three of the twenty-five true shrike species are extremely territorial and mark out individual areas for themselves that vary in size depending on the species. They generally practice ritual courtship feeding, where the male feeds the female.

Bush-shrikes tend to feed by rummaging through vegetation at different levels of the forest ecosystem. Helmet-shrikes are noisy, sociable hunters that search the woods from tree base to upper branches. The true shrikes depend upon their patience and sharp vision to catch prey, sitting for long periods on perches until something on the ground draws their deadly attention. However, they also jump into the air to catch insects.

Additional topics

Animal Life ResourceBirdsShrikes: Laniidae - Physical Characteristics, Habitat, Diet, Behavior And Reproduction, Conservation Status, White Helmet-shrike (prionops Plumatus): Species Accounts - GEOGRAPHIC RANGE, SHRIKES AND PEOPLE