Wednesday, January 16, 2013

Northern Shrike

One of things that draw me into birding is not only the rare, but the unusual. In this case, the Northern Shrike...

Also known as the "butcher bird" this predatory songbird is infamous for impaling its prey of mice, small birds and reptiles, and insects on thorns and barbed wire fences for later eating. This robin sized passerine is identifiable by its pearl grey back, white underbelly, black "robber" mask and a hooked beak. Breeding in Canada and Alaska, the Northern Shrike winters in open country with tall perches, including shrubby fields, wetlands, and forest edges in the northern United States.

Finding them is not easy. I learned this the hard way. They can be found perching on the top branches of tall trees and shrubs, often just looking like a small bird or a leaf in the distance. They best viewed through the binoculars, because they seem to be very skittish and fly away quickly.

This above picture was taken at Bender Park in Oak Creek on 12/16/2012. I had long wished to see a shrike out in the field. I had missed out an opportunity to see one found at Cliffside Park two weeks prior to this picture. A birding friend suggested I try Bender Park. With my luck, not only I succeeded in finding one, but took a picture my first shrike! That was not easy.... I spotted this guy as I pulled into the parking lot on a top of a solitary tree near the lot. As I approached the bird, it flew away! Luckily, it flew to a nearby tree. Had to find its comfort zone and quickly! After playing a game of cat and mouse, I finally nailed him. Victorious! Since then, I've seen two more shrikes... I can only hope to find more.

The bottom picture is NOT mine. It took it from the Audubon site to give viewers a better idea of what they look like.


OrbsCorbs said...

Aw, such a cute bird. Hard to imagine it impaling its prey for later consumption. Nature is tough.

legal stranger said...

Survival of the fittest is the ways of nature, great story Drew.

drewzepmeister said...

What gets to me is when people say, "He just ate a cute bunny rabbit" or something like that. What is a predator to do? Go to a supermarket? Yes, it is the survival of the fittest. The old, the young, the sick and the weak are the first taken.

I've always wondered how a shrike can take down prey as large as a mouse with no talons. I got my answer in this video.