The Butcher Bird Shrikes Again

| 5/15/2009 3:16:07 PM


Fans of John O’Connor’s brilliant travel account “The Boil,” which appeared in Utne’s Jan.-Feb. issue, should check out this other lovely—and somewhat cringe-inducing—tale he penned for The Believer.

In “Avian,” O’Connor discovers the handiwork of the loggerhead shrike, a.k.a. the Butcher Bird, which spends its days skillfully filleting prey on thorn bushes and then disemboweling their carcasses. The measures are gruesome, but necessary, because it lacks the talon-power of other predatory birds. It’s also facing declining numbers in North America.

O’Connor was particularly transformed by the chilling death of a tiny green lizard. After staring down the author, the bird made quick business of crucifying its tiny meal. O’Connor writes of the slain creature, “Its intestines, naked to the world, shone like cooked spaghetti…. I began to feel a grudging respect for the Butcher Bird. To see an animal overcome its genetic shortcomings in such dramatic fashion, supported by a brain the size of a lentil, well, it gives a man hope.”

The Believer was nominated for a 2009 Utne Independent Press Award for its arts coverage.

Source: The Believer

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