Wednesday 29 July 2020

Shrike (South Africa, estimated 1966)

This stamp seems to have been reprinted over several years from 1961 through perhaps to the early 70s. I’ve gone for a date of 1966 on this one as it’s the closest I can decipher from the postmark, but I admit I could well be wrong.

Our subject today is the crimson-breasted shrike, also known as the crimson-breasted gonolek and, in the Latin, Laniarius atrococcineus. Atrococcineus apparently means black/red and it was the colouring of the bird that captured the attention of British naturalist William John Burchell who is credited with documenting the shrike in 1811. Both male and female shrike have the same colouring.

So far so sweet. It turns out laniarius is derived from the Latin laniare, which is to tear, mangle or pull to pieces. It would appear that the shrike’s eating habits are a little violent…

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