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‘Butcher Bird’ Spotted In Surrey

Tuesday 8th March 2016

© Mark Adams

A rare bird of prey which stores its victims in a grisly larder has been seen out hunting on one of Surrey Wildlife Trust’s nature reserves.

The feisty grey predator stores its catch in a bush or tree, to devour later

The Great Grey Shrike - known as the ‘butcher bird’ - was identified by eagle-eyed Surrey Wildlife Trust Officer James Herd on Poors Allotment near Camberley.

“It’s an incredibly rare bird and it’s very difficult to get a glimpse, so I was really lucky to witness it,” he said. “It’s the first time I’ve ever seen one, despite working in heathland management for seven years, so it was really exciting.”

Not much bigger than a blackbird, the Great Grey Shrike hunts small mammals, lizards and beetles and it’ll even kill other birds as big as greenfinches. The feisty grey predator then stores its catch in a bush or tree, to devour later at its leisure.

“It’s called the butcher bird, because it has this unusual behaviour of keeping its prey in a larder - sometimes even impaling mammals or birds on a thorn for safekeeping,” added James.

Only about 200 Great Grey Shrikes visit the UK every year. They travel here from Europe, Asia and North Africa to overwinter between October and May.

Poors Allotment, managed by Surrey Wildlife Trust, offers the perfect habitat for Great Grey Shrikes. The heathland reserve is relatively quiet, provides a good food source and has plenty of perches, so the bird can sit up high and keep a look-out for prey. Historically the birds have also been known to visit the Trust’s reserves at Chobham Common and Ash Ranges.

“Surrey Wildlife Trust works hard to preserve this type of heathland habitat, which is vital for these birds,” James said. “If we lost these habitats, the shrike would have nowhere to live in winter.”

The few Great Grey Shrikes that are overwintering in the UK will soon be migrating back to their breeding grounds in Scandinavia.

In the meantime, keen bird watchers might be lucky enough to see one perched on a fence post or high in a tree on heathland, farmland and in scrub.

Surrey Wildlife Trust would love to hear from anyone who manages to spot or even photograph this scarce winter visitor. To record your sighting please visit:

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