Monday, November 10, 2014

Northern Shrike

First Northern Shrike of the season showed up for me at Jackson Bottom Wetlands in Hillsboro this past Sunday. It was perched high in a tree and at first gave the impression of Scrub Jay. My beginner birder group had been wrestling with Scrub Jays all morning--just when they thought they'd really nailed the Jay, one would pose at a new angle and look totally different from the last one. They eyed this new tree topper with a wary hope--could it be something other than a Jay?

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 They noticed the tail and bill were shorter, sky blue had been replaced by gray, and a striking black mask tied the whole outfit together.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!

1 comment:

Jen Sanford said...

Now that's a great photo! Haha. Good to see a blog post from you!