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Northern Shrikes Arriving

The Northeast loses a lot of songbirds to migration in the fall, but it gains a few as well, one of which is the Northern Shrike (Lanius excubitor).   As days shorten and temperatures drop, this tundra-nesting bird migrates southward into southern parts of Canada and northern U.S., arriving in October and November on its wintering grounds. In some areas Northern Shrike movements and winter numbers have been associated with the movements of Snowy Owls and Rough-legged Hawks.

The Northern Shrike is highly unusual in that it is a predatory songbird. Birds, mammals and insects are preferred over nectar, nuts and seeds. During the winter it preys mainly on small mammals (voles, mice, shrews) and birds. The Northern Shrike often kills more prey than it can immediately eat or feed its young, storing the excess food to eat later when available living prey may be scarce. The manner in which it stores this extra food is what gave it the name “butcher bird;” it often impales prey on a thorn, broken branch or even barbed wire, or it wedges prey into narrow V-shaped forks of branches, where they hang until reclaimed by the shrike. (Photo by Mary Sue Henszey)

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9 responses

  1. Dear Mary, I got the calendar yestetday. It is wonderful! What great pictures! It must be so hard to choose! I love going back through some of my favorite pictures! What. Fun we had getting many of them. MarysSue has been very quiet lately! I wonder if she’s ok? Are you ok? This sure isn’t much fun! Tulla is now deaf totally. She responds to hand signals. She loves Tim’s dog and they get together often. I slipped on some seaweed two days ago and chipped a front tooth badly it’s not a big deal as it was a fake tooth because I knocked the original one out when I was learning how to turn bowls . So the dentist can just put another one in it’s place. I did smash my lower lip which bled for many hours. I like wearing a mask now to hide my snaggle tooth and bloody lip. We had a wild storm yesterday and I had to drive to BarHarbor for an appointment with my new accountant whom I liked very much. He is aware that I need more help than most as Peter always did everything in that department. After my appointment I met a friend that I had to seen for many years. We were neighbors in Westport Conn. we both had two boys and spent a lot of outdoor time together at the beach . It was fun to see her and catch-up a little. She lives below Southwest Harbor in Bernard Maine. After visiting her I really appreciate Sedgwick, no stores and very few houses, mostly lobsterman as you can see by all the traps piled up in their yards for winter! The drive home was a nightmare but we made it sloshing through deep water on the road in many places. It was a relief to get back i the warm house. I hope you are getting out and about in this crazy time. Ranie had a great idea that I should stop using the phone for a camera and get my camera charged up which I have done. I will take it with me when we walk to the beach today . Lots of love and thankyou so much for the calendar I feel guilty about it! Love. Kay Sent from my iPhone

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    November 24, 2020 at 8:42 am

  2. Alice

    An adorable little fluffy bird with interesting survival skills.

    November 24, 2020 at 9:02 am

  3. Stein

    Hi Mary,
    Do you know if a shrike’s cache is often raided by crows?
    Can’t believe it’s almost December!
    Best wishes to you!

    November 24, 2020 at 11:57 am

    • Hi Stein,
      I don’t know about crows, but it would make sense, wouldn’t it? Let me know how you are doing! (maryholland505@gmail.com). xoxo

      November 28, 2020 at 6:24 pm

  4. I love these birds! Full grown adults are absolutely beautiful! And if you get near their nest, perhaps with or without active eggs or babies, they will let you know about their displeasure! Yes their call is a Shirek, I guess hence the name Shrike? 🙂 ❤

    November 24, 2020 at 1:08 pm

  5. I have a Shrike here in my village and he loves flying through my backyard when the bird feeders are loaded with finches! Sometimes he is successful and will do the classic feed by wedging his meal in the fork of a nearby branch before he feeds. I have a friend just outside of the village and she has a hawthorn in her hedgerow, some years it is used as a larder for the Shrike. One year it had 8 birds stored on the thorns of the tree. I don’t mind the predatory birds grabbing a meal here, as everyone has to eat. Plus the predatory birds are not as common as those they prey on.

    November 24, 2020 at 3:06 pm

    • If you could ever get a picture of a tree stuffed with shrike kills I would love to use it as a post! What a sight!

      November 28, 2020 at 6:25 pm

  6. Wonderful post, Mary! And I love the 2021 calendar!

    November 24, 2020 at 4:23 pm

    • Thank you, Kathie. So glad you like the calendar! A very happy holiday season to you! Great that you know Gail Holmes!

      November 28, 2020 at 6:26 pm

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