Thursday, March 1, 2012

Yikes...It's the Butcher Bird!

It was getting late; owls, foxes and soon the racoons would be coming around...it 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 Poland...so 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

7 comments:

eileeninmd said...

WOW, cool sighting and photos of the Shrike. Happy Birding!

Beverly said...

Well, I agree about the photos and wish I took them! That was a most exciting sighting. Thanks for visiting again, too.

Full Spectrum Mama said...

I am just so excited to find your blog - we have had a Flicker visiting our suet feeded this winter...so there's my most exciting yard-bird. Guess it doesn't really compare! How DID that shrike spot the dead bird? Wow.
Looking forward to reading more!!

Beverly said...

Mama!

I LOVE Flickers, don't you? I have two or three visiting my feeders, too; but since I've been counting I have ~100 different species here! It's taken 4-5 yrs of casual observation (and sometimes the help of others) to get there; compared to my expert friends around here; it's a puny few! I'm so happy to see you here; it's good to keep up interests for YOU, too!

The Shrikes are predator birds; they hunt and kill all manner of animal to eat: bugs, lizards...and even smaller birds. They are efficient killers...I doubt he 'found' that bird! If you click on a 'tag'...listed on the lower right of the blog; you will find all posts on that topic. Try shrikes.

NewMexiKen said...

Congrats on the new life/yard bird! I will never forget, as a kid obout 10 years old, finding grasshoppers impaled on a barbed wire fence. I looked for and was so pleased to see my first shrike. It was winter in NJ and my 1937 Peterson guide gave fleeting mention to the "Migrant Shrike," as it was called back then, so I put it on my list as a Loggerhead. So many years later, I had to go to Churchill, Manitoba to see my first "Northern."

Beverly said...

Cool story, Ken! As a kid, I remember seeing a grasshopper or two, and once a honey bee, impaled on barbed wire. I kept wondering the odds that a bee could be found thus. I wondered if the same kids who like to pull wings off flies did it...or how strong a gust of wind must have been to send a bee right into a barb. I had no idea, then, about Shrikes. Interesting creatures, no?
Thanks for stopping by!

West Oldis said...

I'm having trouble identifying a bird in our yard. How can I send you a photo?