According to Wikipedia, Marty Stouffer’s Wild America was massively successful for well over a decade and holds the honor of being the most-broadcast PBS series ever (take that, Bob Ross!). Yet despite these accolades, I have yet to find another person who even remembers the show, let alone its sign-off: “I’m Marty Stouffer. Until next time… enjoy our willlllld America!” (I’m not worried, though. This is what the internet is best at. Honk if you loved it.)

At any rate, as a young child in an enormous concrete jungle (I'm lookin' at you, NYC), I would sit rapt by episodes of Wild America and the natural world it opened to me. The show was known for portraying nature in all its tenderness and brutality; the predator/prey scenes replay first when I conjure up the show in my mind. So when I saw this illustration of shrikes’ predatory behavior by natural history illustrator Jennifer Bates, I naturally thought Stouffer would have been all over it back in the day (and maybe he was - anyone want to sift through all 120 episodes to confirm?):

Shrike Predatory Behavior by Jennifer Bates
Loggerhead Shrike with Prey, by Jennifer Bates. Vote for this image in NSF's Vizzies Visualization Challenge through midnight November 17, 2015!

Shrikes are the poster child for not letting your biology define you. Lacking the edge that raptors’ talons provide in grasping their prey, these predatory songbirds have developed a behavior that helps them hold their meal so they can feast: they use barbed wire like a fork. The gruesome aspect of this behavior surprised me, but it shouldn’t have. It’s quite practical, really, and a wonderful reminder of how resourceful animals are.

By the way, does this count as tool use by a non-mammal? I can't see how it wouldn't.

Side note: This image is in the running for The Vizzies, the National Science Foundation's Visualization Challenge for visual media in the sciences, and you can help propel it to the top! Voting ends tomorrow November 17th, 2015 at midnight! Vote here.

More about Jennifer Bates:

Instagram: @jbatesart
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