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07/18/08
A Playful Shrike
Filed under: General, Birding & Outdoors, Florida & SE US
Posted by: Ken @ 8:12 pm

Loggerhead Shrike on our patio seems fascinated by a leaf from our Travelers Palm:

After constructing our patio addition, there were some left-over travertine tiles. I used them to create a small attached area for our barbecue.We planted three Traveler’s Palms in a line next to it, and they provided a privacy screen of sorts. Traveler’s Palms are not true palms, but are classified in a family all its own and look rather more like a banana plant. Native only to Madagascar, it gets its name from the fact that its leaves and stalks, which grow in a single vertical plane,  collect and store large quantities of water (available for any thirsty “traveler”). Its flowers, which somewhat resemble those of the Bird-of-Paradise (a West African native that is in the banana family), bloom the year around, and its fruits attract insects, especially ants. Lizards and birds come to drink its water and feast on the insects. 

Flower bracts of Traveler’s Palm in patriotic red, white and blue:

This photo demonstrates the interesting stalks, all arranged in one plane:

Between rain showers, I noted a Loggerhead Shrike on the back patio, hopping along and carrying a dead leaf from one of our Travelers Palms. It almost seemed to be playing with it, as it positioned it like a flag and carried it about for several minutes. Since the behaviors of wild creatures are purposeful, and usually carry some survival value, I observed the shrike more closely to see if there was some purpose. I photographed it through the patio windows, so the quality of the shots is sub-par.

The shrike shook the leaf repeatedly, flew up an dropped it several times, and carried it to several different perches, where it held the leaf with its feet while it probed towards the area of it stem. My best guess is that the shrike saw some prey item, whether an insect or a lizard or tree frog, hide itself in the folds of the leaf. The tubular stems that hold water may also provide hollows of varying sizes that could shelter all sorts of creatures. In any event, the shrike finally gave up its quest, apparently without obtaining any reward for its efforts. 

The Shrike carried the leaf up to a lawn chair…:



…and then, over to a table:


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