Tuesday, 15 April 2014

Name that Shrike!

I was finishing up at a work site near Strathroy on Monday when a quick flash of black and white materialized from out of a hedgerow.  I immediately knew the bird was a shrike, and if this was the middle of February I would have simply passed the bird off as another Northern Shrike, a species that spends its's winters in Ontario.  However, the fact that we are well into April made me excited about the possibility of this bird being an endangered Loggerhead Shrike!  Unfortunately the bird flew off around a hedge row with the wind (which was blowing at nearly 70km/h) and vanished in the blink of an eye.  I spent about 15 mins searching for the bird and eventually saw it several fields over, hunting along the edge of a fence line.

I got my spotting scope out and took a look, and although the pale colour looked good for Northern Shrike, the thick black mask stuck out and suggested the possibility of Loggerhead, which should be arriving now in Ontario.  I continued to watch the bird and eventually was satisfied that this was in fact just a late Northern Shrike.  The combined features of faint streaking on the breast, a long(ish) hooked bill, light gray mantle confirm that this bird is a Northern Shrike.  Still an interesting find, good practice, and a fun bird to watch.  Shrikes are aptly named "butcher birds", for their habit of impaling mice and songbirds that they have killed on thorns and barbed wire and returning for them later.
Northern Shrike

Northern Shrike
Northern Shrike

Loggerhead Shrike in Florida, note the much darker head and mantle and the very thick mask that covers the eye.

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