Sunday, December 2, 2012

Northern Shrike

The Northern Shrike, nicknamed the ‘butcher bird’, deserves his reputation.

Living on birds, insects and small mammals, he impaling his prey on a thorn or barbed wire before ‘butchering’ it. The leftovers remain on the thorn for all to see, which enhances his butcher reputation.  The leftover food doesn’t go to waste though.  He comes back to claim it, when he is hungry again. 

Unlike his smaller southern relative, the Loggerhead Shrike, the Northern Shrike only drops down into the northern tier of the United States for winter. His summers are spent in far northern Canada and Alaska…his breeding range.

This Northern Shrike appeared to be hunting the Forest Beach Migratory Preserve on this day. Bracing against strong northeast winds off Lake Michigan, I watched him struggle to balance on a forty-foot high snag.  After ten minutes of fighting the wind, he gave up and flew away. 

This could be his migration destination though. Northern Shrikes prefer the cooler States like Wisconsin.