Their attention paid off. They noticed the tail and bill were shorter, sky blue had been replaced by gray, and a striking black mask tied the whole outfit together. What a dapper bird! This predatory songbird is a winter visitor to the Lower 48, spending the breeding season much farther north on the taiga. It hunts small mammals, birds, and insects, impaling them on thorns or barbed wire in a gruesome larder. It also goes by the name Butcher Bird, an apt description of its predatory nature.
Our Butcher Bird posed long enough for all fourteen participants to get a view through the scope before it escaped from view as we patted each other's backs, likely on the trail of a tasty meal.
The take away? Don't dismiss it as "just a Jay," because this time of year it might be a Northern Shrike!
|Photo by Jen of I Used to Hate Birds - thanks, Jen!