Whiplash


Shrikes use their beaks for procuring, dispatching and processing their arthropod and vertebrate prey. However, it is not clear how the raptor-like bill of this predatory songbird functions to kill vertebrate prey that may weigh more than the shrike itself. In this paper, using high-speed videogra- phy, we observed that upon seizing prey with their beaks, shrikes performed rapid (6–17 Hz; 49–71 rad s21) axial head-rolling movements. These movements accelerated the bodies of their prey about their own necks at g-forces of approximately 6 g, and may be sufficient to cause pathological damage to the cervical vertebrae and spinal cord. Thus, when tackling relatively large vertebrates, shrikes appear to use the inertia of their prey’s own body against them.

More information about this research on Loggerhead Shrikes