Butcher bird spotted in Surrey

Great Grey Shrike - Credit: Mark Adams/Surrey Wildlife Trust

Great Grey Shrike - Credit: Mark Adams/Surrey Wildlife Trust - Credit: Archant

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 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 the first time I’ve ever seen one, despite working in heathland management for seven years, so it was really exciting,” he said.

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 predator then stores its catch in a bush or tree, to devour later at its leisure.

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 would love to hear from anyone who manages to spot or even photograph this scarce winter visitor. To record your sighting please visit: www.surreywildlifetrust.org/SBIC

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Surrey Wildlife Trust write a monthly Surrey Life magazine column.