shrike or butcher bird, predatory songbird found in most parts of the world except Australia and South America. The plumage of the European and North American species is mostly gray, black, and white; the tail is long and rounded, and the wings are rather short. Some African species are brilliantly colored. The name butcher bird reflects its habit of impaling its prey—small birds and mammals and large insects—on a thorn or sharp twig before tearing it apart with its strong, tip-hooked beak. North American shrikes include the loggerhead, great gray or northern, and California shrikes. Shrikes are classified in the phylum Chordata, subphylum Vertebrata, class Aves, order Passeriformes, family Laniidae.