Thursday, March 1, 2012

Yikes...It's the Butcher Bird!

It was getting late; owls, foxes and soon the racoons would be coming was time to get the McNuggets in the house (that's what I call my two, sister, 10-lb puppies.) I sat at my huge kitchen window, watching them wrestle and chase around the yard. Suddenly, I saw a somewhat larger bird land on the ground, right about where the (soon to be) grass met the residual snow from the last storm. Thinking a Robin was foolish for thinking there might be a worm about in the icy mud, I grabbed my binoculars. It was a Shrike! A new yard bird!!!

I watched as the Shrike picked at something at its feet...another, smaller bird! It was a dead Pine Siskin. Wow! These Shrikes are called 'Butcher Birds' for their habit of hanging dead things on thorns, barbed-wire and in the crook of two twigs of a bush. The males build quite a larder of saved goodies, with which to impress a female. These birds fascinate me to the point that I did a sort of research paper on them for this blog, here.

I know there are two species of Shrike that visit Colorado: The Northern Shrike and the Loggerhead Shrike and as far as I knew the main difference was in the black band that passes through both eyes and over the front of the face just above the beak, where it narrows considerably on the Loggerhead. I'd heard the Northern Shrike's black band was all-around wider. This bird appeared to have a wide black band...and also seemed larger. Later, I discovered it is some 2" larger than the Loggerhead. So: a new yard bird: Northern Shrike! ~~ February 24, 2012

Many of my photos come from Wikipedia, as do the two here. Unfortunately, the first is from the bird is clearly a separate subspecies. Who knew? Well, it turns out one of my very favorite people knew...and I caused quite a bit of consternation when I failed to label where the photo came from! Yes, that bird IS quite a bit darker. The one here, to the right, looks exactly like the bird I saw...but it didn't match my story. Ha! But it IS an American Northern Shrike. Someday I'll get a better camera...

Photos on this page from Wikipedia