Piercing Plants for Bloodthirsty Birds

When it comes to spooky birds, the usual suspects come to mind: ravens, owls and vultures. But there’s a bloody good reason the loggerhead shrike goes by the nickname “butcherbird.”

Halloween is the ideal time to get away with killing, especially if you’re the loggerhead shrike. This unassuming little bird with a white belly, grey back and black mask may not seem frightening. But there’s a reason he also goes by the name butcherbird.

Unsuspecting rodents, lizards and even other birds don’t stand a chance if they encounter this wannabe raptor. Butcherbirds are notorious for impaling their prey on thorns or barbed wire to hold it still while they devour it. Sometimes they’ll even use prickly plants as a precarious pantry so they can return to eat their kill later.

If you can look beyond their terrifying techniques you’ll see they’re actually quite beautiful birds. And if you plant the right plants, you may even entice a few to your landscape.

Agaves like the Spanish dagger are aptly-named for their gruesome use as spears for the shrike’s food. They’re also a Texas native, easy to grow and they add great texture to your landscape. Cactus such as the prickly pear and pencil cactus also have really long spines perfect for impaling. It’s also an easy plant to grow without tending to it.


Hawthorn are prime not only for their spines, but also as shrike habitats. Their small, shrubby stature make for a safe haven for small songbirds. Their berries will also attract other beautiful birds.

Barbed wire and stray wires from fences are also perfect. If you have random wires sticking out that you’ve been thinking about clipping, don’t. They make ideal kebob sticks for the unsuspecting lizard.

These plants won’t matter much if they’re isolated in a desert of turfgrass. To make your home truly welcoming to the passing shrike, implement yard work avoidance and integrated pest management to doubly reduce your workload. Add a bird bath and you could find a dead friend on your next walkabout your garden, courtesy of a loggerhead shrike!

Picture of Sarah Gorton
Sarah Gorton
Sarah Gorton is a Planner with the SAWS Conservation department. She is passionate about bats and native plants, with a particular fondness for horseherb! Sarah has completed certifications through Texas Master Naturalist and Native Plant Society. When she isn't working on her research on the use of native grasses for uptaking pollutants at UTSA, she can be found making stained glass or hanging out with her two Chihuahuas.
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