Watch out – the Butcher’s back!

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Mice and other small mammals are on high alert after the Butcher bird – so called because of its violent feeding habits – was spotted patrolling the skies above Clocaenog forest in north Wales.

The Great Grey Shrike, to give the bird its common name, is a rare winter visitor to the UK, but is frequently seen perched on the tops of small conifer trees in Clocaenog Forest, resembling a small magpie.

The Welsh Government forest is fast becoming a hotspot for bird watching, due in part to the open forest habitat that Forestry Commission Wales has established for the black grouse, which is also a rare breeding bird in Wales.

The Butcher bird preys on small birds such as wrens, mice and other small mammals in open forest areas and likes to establish a larder of spare food by impaling it on a sharp thorn or small branch.

It breeds in summer in northern Europe and Russia, moving south in winter to central, southern Europe and Britain.

It’s one of many birds of prey that can be seen in Clocaenog forest, including a whole host of other forest species such as crossbill, siskins, snipe, woodcock, ravens and owls.

In all, 180 hectares of open forest has been created in Clocaenog with a mosaic of habitats from sparse conifer forest to wet areas of streams and marsh to open heather. This has benefited many other birds, including rare summer visitors such as nightjar, cuckoo and grasshopper warbler.

The forest is also recognised for many important rare mammals in Wales, including red squirrel, water vole, and otters.

Conservation and Heritage Manager Iolo Lloyd said, “The best way to find the Great Grey Shrike is to visit open forest areas within Clocaenog forest that are newly planted or have a scattering of trees.

“Scoping round with binoculars will often reveal the bird, as its preferred perching point is on the high tips of trees or on power lines and its distinct size and posture is easily recognisable.”

Some of the most popular locations to find the Butcher bird is at the high hill within Clocaenog Forest called Craig Bron Bannog and the Black Grouse hide at Foel Frech.


A total of 14.3 per cent of Wales is covered by woodlands. Of this, 38% (126,000 hectares/311,000 acres) is owned by the Welsh Government.

Forestry Commission Wales is the Welsh Government’s department of forestry and manages these woodlands on its behalf.

For more information on conservation in Clocaenog forest, contact Iolo Lloyd on 07971 867329, email

More information on the woodlands of Wales is available on

Visit News at FCWales for news, images, press office contact details and links to case studies.

Press office contact: Clive Davies on 0300 068 0061, mobile 07788 190922, email