After my Fiscal Shrikes reared two babies in July this year, I'm absolutely thrilled that she is rearing four more (late Sept. 2015)! A couple of weeks ago, as I put out minced meat on the feeding table early in the mornings, I watched as the female took pieces to the nest up in one of my Acacias, so I knew there were babies, but four is a surprise! In the picture above, the third baby is just to the left out of the camera’s zoom view and the fourth to the right. I just could not capture all four of them together, the one, which I think is the eldest of the four, is very independent and always off somewhere else.
The Fiscal Shrike is also sometimes named jackie hangman, or butcher bird, due to its habit of impaling its prey on acacia thorns to store the food for later consumption, therefore the Afrikaans name of ‘Fiskaallaksman’. Endemic to Southern Africa, it occurs almost everywhere in South Africa, extending into much of Namibia, Zimbabwe and southern Botswana. It occupies a wide variety of habitats but generally prefers open habitats with scattered trees, such as savanna, open woodland, shrubland and grassland. It is also extremely common in man-made habitats such as gardens, parks, farmland and roadsides.
These mini raptors have a hooked beak that enables them to catch small animals and insects. They often impale their meals on thorns which explains the derivation of their name from the Latin word for butcher. They sit upright on the tops of shrubs and other conspicuous perches to spot their prey and also to advertise their presence to competitors. They are endemic to Southern Africa.
Afrikaans : Fiskaallaksman
Ever since the Karoo Thrush evicted Robbie (my Cape Robin-chat) from my house, I've been putting mince for him on one of the feeding tables in the garden. Now Mrs. Fiscal has recognised my whistle for Robbie and comes to join the feast, carrying titbits of minced meat to her little ones. This is a valuable source of protein and fat for them, but in between I've watched her catching nice fat grasshoppers and worms, also valuable roughage for them.
The Fiscal Shrike is a monogamous, highly territorial solitary nester. Males defend their territory ferociously against other males, often grabbing their opponent with their claws and then pecking them repeatedly. The female handles most of the nest construction, a process which lasts 2-5 days. It is a thickly walled cup made of twigs, flower heads, bark, grass, leafy herbs and moss, sometimes also including paper, rags, spider web, feathers and cocoons. It is usually placed in the fork of a thorny bush or small tree, building a new nest each breeding season.
Typically 2-3 broods are produced within the breeding season each consisting of a 1-5, usually 3-4 eggs clutch. These are incubated mainly by the female for 12-16 days.
The chicks are fed mainly by the mostly the female in the first week, after which the male gradually takes more responsibility. They stay in the nest for about 14-21 days and can feed for themselves about 3 weeks later. However, they only become independent after a few more weeks, leaving their parents territory at about 4 months old.