Northern Shrike

March 26, 2016  •  Leave a Comment

Photo of the Day courtesy of Wayne Rundell: I will be leading a program again this year for the Chequamegon Bay Bird and Nature festival held on May 19. 20, and 21. This festival has become the premier nature festival in the upper Mid-west and is a highly recommended event. There are a wide variety of programs covering many topics of nature and many include some awesome time in the field whether it be hiking, paddling, biking, or just plain ole bird watching. There is something for suited for everyone. I will be leading a tour called “ Photo Safari” which will be held on Saturday, May 21st from 6:30-10:30 AM. We will head into the field (weather permitting) to learn about the challenges and techniques used to capture beautiful images of nature. Starting at 9:45 AM, we will be showing a photo slideshow set to music in the main theater at the Northern Great Lakes Visitor Center. The slide show is open to anyone attending the festival. The slide show is must see and has been prepared by me using my photography of the local area and wildlife. Register through the Ashland Chamber of Commerce. So now on to todays post: The Northern Shrike is an irregular visitor to the Northern part of Wisconsin. This year is one of those years where not too many sightings have been reported and I am one that has not seen one this winter. While similar to the Loggerhead Shrike, the Northern is paler in color and larger bodied with a larger bill that allows it to attack and subdue larger prey.A predatory songbird, the Northern Shrike breeds in taiga and tundra and winters in southern Canada and the northern United States. It feeds on small birds, mammals, and insects, sometimes impaling them on spines or barbed wire fences.

 

Cool Facts (credit: allaboutbirds.org)

  • The Northern Shrike, like other shrikes, kills more prey, if it can, than it can immediately eat or feed to nestlings. Such behavior was characterized by early observers as "wanton killing," but the Northern Shrike stores excess prey to eat later. Storing food is an adaptation for surviving periods of food scarcity.
  • The Latin species name of the Northern Shrike, Lanius excubitor, means "Butcher watchman."
  • The nest of the Northern Shrike is an open cup, but it is so deep that while incubating, the female is completely out of view except for the tip of her tail.
  • Both male and female Northern Shrikes sing throughout year. The male sings especially in late winter and early spring.
  • The oldest recorded Northern Shrike a female, and at least 8 years, 7 months old, when she was recaptured and rereleased during banding operations in Wisconsin.

The following photo was captured after this bird collided with one of our windows. I wanted to use this image because it allowed me to show detail of the Shrikes bill. In the second photo you can see the hooked upper bill that is common in most predatory birds, but if you look closely you will see a small "tooth" like protrusion just behind the hook on the upper half of it's bill. This tooth is an adaptation that allows the Shrike to quickly sever the spinal cord as it bites into the neck of it's prey.

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